Minnesota’s To-Do List in Puerto Rico

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 19th, 2015

Minnesota started off its 2015-16 campaign with two home wins against UMKC and Louisiana-Monroe. In those first two victories, Richard Pitino‘s squad struggled to put together a complete effort. They led UMKC by only two at the half and allowed Louisiana-Monroe to cut a 13-point halftime lead to a single bucket before pulling away late. The competition will improve today when the Gophers begin their three-game participation in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and it’s clear that Minnesota has some work to do in the islands. Here are three things that the team needs to figure out and improve upon during this weekend’s trip to San Juan.

Minnesota needs Nate Mason to score a bit more consistently in Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Minnesota needs Nate Mason to score a bit more consistently in Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  1. Find Another Offensive Threat or Two: Joey King was lights-out in the two wins, averaging 21.0 points per game and scoring from all over the floor. Nate Mason and Carlos Morris have started slowly, however, as they’ve combined to shoot just 5-of-17 from behind the arc. Both of these veterans need to be able to complement King’s offensive work with some production of their own. If their shots aren’t falling, they need to get more aggressive and find some ways to the charity stripe — the duo has shot only six combined free throws on the season. It’s safe to say that Pitino’s squad has settled far too often and taken too many perimeter shots. King needs some help in the scoring column.
  2. Make Strides Toward Finalizing a Rotation: When Louisiana-Monroe went on its second half run on Sunday, Pitino closed the game with a lineup of King, Mason, Charles Buggs, Kevin Dorsey and Jordan Murphy. This decision gave the Gophers a defensive lift, specifically with Mason and Dorsey acting as pests in the backcourt and Buggs and Murphy doing a nice job on the boards and contesting shots. Anyone who watches Big Ten basketball knows that Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou have outstanding potential but they’ve been largely ineffective thus far. Konate had some nice moments on the offensive glass on Sunday and he blocked three shots in the opener, but if neither is yet ready for big minutes, Pitino should not hesitate to go small. It’s also worth figuring out how much Dupree McBrayer can give this team by playing him more minutes in Puerto Rico.
  3. Hit the Boards: The Gophers haven’t been a particularly good rebounding team under Pitino and that trend has continued so far this season. Konate and Diedhiou have the size to get the job done, so this needs to be their primary responsibility when they’re both on the court. Mason and the other guards also need to do a better job of sticking their noses into the paint from time to time. Since Minnesota doesn’t have someone who can grab double-figure boards by himself, the Gophers need to do a better job blocking out and snagging misses as a team.

Depending on what happens in Minnesota’s first game against Temple, a tilt against Butler in the semifinals could be looming in round two. Miami (FL), Mississippi State, Texas Tech and Utah help to fill out a pretty solid field. If the Gophers can come away with two wins against a single loss here over the weekend, they’ll have to feel good about the status of things going forward.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at brendan.brody@gmail.com, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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