Monday, December 26, 2005

Gophers 80, Jackrabbits 61

G.P. made some more progress toward being renamed "The Oracle", as he was right on predicting the Gophers would win by 19. Two more points from both squads and he's perfect on his prediction.

Other than that, I must say this contest was ugly and uneventful. As Grant mentioned in his preview, the Jackrabbits aren't a good basketball team. Both teams combined for 40 turnovers (Jackrabbits 24, Gophers 16) which caused this game to be played at faster pace (74 possessions) than to which the Gophers are accustomed. SDSU's 24 turnovers kept them near their offensive efficiency for the season as they posted an 82.7 rating. While the Gophers posted a 56.3 eFG%, said amount of turnovers kept their offensive efficiency rating at an modestly effictive 107.7.

From my humble subjective viewpoint, this was the worst team the Gophers have played this season. There wasn't one aspect of the Jackrabbits' attack that was particularly impressive, as their team statistics will also tell you. This gives them no shot at competing against major conference competition. I was much more impressed with North Dakota State's effort against the Gophers, as the two are comparable because they are both relatively new to the Division I scene. The Bison are 5-7 so far, but haven't played the kind of schedule that their neighbors to the south have. Jackrabbits' coach Scott Nagy may suggest that my opinion was skewed by an uncharacteristically bad performance from his squad, but judging by the statistics, it looks like this wasn't the first time his team looked like this.

Spencer Tollackson had another nice game, scoring 22 points on a 10 for 14 shooting night from the field. Through 10 games, Tollackson has the following line:

26.0 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 57.1 eFG%, 1.15 PPWS, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.4 TO/g, 1.0 spg, 0.9 bgp

I'm ready to see the beast unleashed against Big Ten opponents. There is no doubt that he won't be able to put these exact numbers up during the conference schedule, as low and mid-major conference opponents don't usually boast a wealth of skilled big men. Also, the rate at which Tollackson is turning the ball over is a reason for concern. However, Tollackson's shooting has signficantly improved from last season and the two Grants aren't the only ones that think Spencie looks leaner and meaner this season. According to college basketball everywhere-man Jeff Shelman, the Gophers' staff attributes much of Tollackson's improvement to a willingness to get to the line. It's no suprise that Tollackson didn't want to be seen at the stripe last year as he made only six of his 24 free-throw attempts. While he's improved his stroke this year, he's still been a big reason for the Gophers' free-throw shooting woesn as he's shot 21 of 38 (55.3 percent) from the line. Either way, Tollackson has definately become more aggressive this year, which is usually a good thing for a big man (Dan Coleman take note).

While we're on the topic of free-throw shooting, the Gophers had a perfect night from the line Friday. Too bad it came on only nine attempts. This marked the first game since their Nov. 30 meeting with Maryland where the Gophers went to the line less than the opponent as the Jackrabbits went 8 of 10 from the line.

I can't help but laugh at G.P.'s comparison of Jamal Abu-Shamala to the Jackrabbits' Andy Kleinjan. The two had eerily similar statlines Friday.

Abu-Shamala: 22 mins, 7 pts, 2-3 fgs, 1-2 3 fgs, 4 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl, 0 TOs
Kleinjan: 20 mins, 8 pts, 3-4 fgs, 2-2 3 fgs, 3 rebs, 3 asts, 1 stl, 0 TOs

Creepy. Fortunately, the two look nothing like each other, as Kleinjan bears a more striking resemblance to former Gopher Steve "Sunshine" Esselink.

It's become apparent that Abu-Shamala and Rico Tucker will have to battle for playing time this season as long as Moe Hargrow, Vince Grier and Adam Boone are all in the lineup. I get the idea that the coaching staff will give Tucker every chance to succeed or fail, because they want someone to be able to back-up Boone without having to move Hargrow to the point guard position. Tucker likely helped his cause Friday, dishing out four assists and capturing three steals, while turning the ball over once. These statistics will likely factor more into the coaches' decisions when it comes to playing time rather than his shooting, as he went 3 for 9 from the field and 0 for 4 from 3-point land Friday. Tucker's eFG% for the season now stands at 31.9 percent and he is averaging 0.81 PPWS. This makes it fairly easy for Gopher Hoops to stand behind Abu-Shamala for our choice as to who should see more playing time.

The Gophers compiled a ridiculous 27 assists Friday, with Boone accounting for 12 of them. While the definition of the assist is somewhat open for interpretation, I find it hard to believe that the Gophers recorded assists on 27 of 33 made field goals. That, coupled with the fact that former Gopher Kevin Burleson, target of much loathing by guys named Grant, often found himself near the top of the Big Ten in assists, might be enough evidence to launch an investigation into the Gophers' bookkeeping practices.

As I was browsing midmajority.com earlier today, I was suprised to see that the Gophers were shooting 37.7 percent from the 3-point line, good for 73rd in the nation. However, this number is only good for eighth in the Big Ten. What's troubling is the Gophers were allowing opponents to shoot 38.9 percent on threes through Dec. 18, good for 10th in the conference. We'll see if this is a problem when the time comes.

Speaking of the conference schedule, we will examine the competition throughout the next three days, with predictions soon to follow. This should give our small, but astute audience something to chew on while waiting for the Dec. 31 showdown with Oral Roberts.

-Grant Boelter

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