Big Ten Basketball: Team Preview — Teams in Need of Help Continues — Part III
Minnesota and Purdue
The last preview entry discussed Penn State and Nebraska, two improved teams, but teams still in need of help to enter March Madness. This installment presents Minnesota and Purdue, two teams with a somewhat greater chance of making the big dance, but again, still in need of a fall from grace of other Big Ten teams.Richard Pitino Junior, who is the son of the very successful Rick Pitino of Louisville, now coaches Minnesota. There is every indication this Pitino will also succeed. Like every coach, getting the talent will be the challenge, especially recruiting against established top teams in the Midwest.
Minnesota’s attack and scheme will greatly resemble Louisville. The pace will be up- tempo. Expect a much faster floor game than under half-court legend Tubby Smith. The defense will be equally aggressive, as the trapping style of Louisville will be applied. Because of the new style the guards will not be saddled with point guard/play running duties as much as run, shoot, and play.
The reality is that the Gophers do not have the same talent as the Big Ten front-runners. At least not yet, but will be dangerous, perhaps more so earlier in the conference season than later. The good deal is low expectations. No one is predicting a final four trip. That will change as the years progress, assuming success in recruiting.There is a good start: the Hollins brothers, Andre and Austin. There are nights that Andre can lite the board up as well as any conference guard. Both are averaging over 13 points a game and the floor leadership has been sound. The third guard is the very fast 5’ 9” JUCO Deandrea Mathieu. He will serve as the point guard freeing up the Hollins brothers for more offense.
The inside presence is 6’ 10” Elliott Eliason. He is a typical Minnesota big man: not of twinkle toes but a very good defender and one who can work a size advantage.
The rest of the team are newcomers and role players. Pitino will play the faster and longest players that fit his press and run system.
Purdue continues to play hard defense, but like the last couple of seasons, it will be difficult for the Boilers to win half of the league schedule. Difficult, yes, but such a small turnaround would not be a shock. Purdue finished the non-conference schedule at 10-3, losing to the good teams on the schedule. As always, Mackey Arena will be a very difficult place to win for visitors.Purdue’s shooting is in the typical range, shooting 45% combined and 35% from the three-point arc. The good news for Purdue is that opponents are shooting only 40% and 30% regarding the above statistics. Foul shooting has been below average at 65% and turnovers have been occurring at about a rate of 13 a game, just a little over the normal range.
Two Johnsons, Tyrone and Ronnie, both guards, are averaging between them 25 points a game. Both are excellent three point shooters and require the care of an opposing defense to not become temporary microwaves. A third guard, Bryson Scott, is averaging 10 points a game.
A.J. Hammons, a seven-foot sophomore with very good upside, mans the middle. He is the Boilers primary rebounder. Jay Simpson is a 6’ 10” redshirt freshman and he is providing some extra needed help with scoring and rebounding.Basil Smotherman and Kendall Stephens are freshmen swingmen who are both contributing enough to earn plenty of playing time. Smotherman is over 220 pounds and was highly recruited.
Purdue will defend, but last year the Boilers has some trouble hitting enough points to win Big Ten games. This year the Boilers have a lot of youth that will play. As is frequently the case, that can be good or not so good. So, far, the good seems to outweigh the bad.
Next up in the annual preview will be the teams in the mixer. The cement mixer of the Big Ten can grind a team down. And these teams have a better chance of making the tournament than the four teams described as needing help, but the mixer teams are far from guaranteed anything, except perhaps the pressure of knowing that any one loss could be the difference of making the tournament and staying home.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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