Behind Minnesota’s Slump: Lineup Confusion Holding the Gophers Back

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On a roster replete with tweeners, none is in positional limbo more than Joe Coleman. The amebic sophomore has the size befitting of a guard, but a game and skill set better suited for a forward. Coleman has settled into the 3-spot for Minnesota, which presents mismatches when the Gophers are on defense. Coleman lacks the size and lateral quickness necessary to defend opposing small forwards.

Smith has worked around the logistical ambiguity of his team considerably well. Despite size disadvantages at the 3 and 4, Minnesota is the most dominant offensive rebounding team in the country by a good deal, controlling better than 46-percent of all offensive rebounding opportunities.  The Gophers own a top-15 offense and top-25 defense as measured by Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency calculations, which bodes well for the future success of the team.

Minnesota needs Andre Hollins, the only Gopher who can beat you off the dribble and create his own shot, to become a better facilitator in the half court. But even improvements at point guard are incomplete given the logjam at power forward. Williams has tried to tailor his game like a small forward—which would allow Mbakwe to slide over to his natural power forward slot assuming reserve pivot Elliot Eliason can provide extended minutes (that’s a heavy assumption)—but the experiment thus far has backfired.

It’s true that Tubby Smith possesses his most athletic and versatile team in the Twin Cities to date, but the lofty potential that still exists for this team (as in Atlanta) could wither away because of so many undefined roles.

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Topics: Basketball, Minnesota Golden Gophers

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