Amir Coffey is Leading Minnesota’s Early Resurgence

Posted by Jim Root on November 23rd, 2016

Entering this season Minnesota basketball appeared to be facing a tall task. After a dismal season in which the Gophers finished 8-23, fans were getting restless and whispers about Richard Pitino’s job security began to surface. Now, coming off their second straight win over a Power 6 school (yes, we are counting the Big East here), optimism reigns in Minneapolis. After all, Minnesota only won three games against Power 6 teams during the entirety of last year (and yes, that includes 19 Big Ten games)!  One of the biggest reasons for the Gophers’ resurgence is because of a silky-smooth lefty freshman, local boy Amir Coffey. A highly-rated recruit from Hopkins, Minnesota, Coffey has already shown the ability to score at a high level, and his performances against St. John’s and Arkansas – his best two games of the young year – indicate that he is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.

Amir Coffey (USA Today Images)

Amir Coffey Has Already Driven Minnesota to Greater Success Than Last Year (USA Today Images)

Part of what makes Coffey’s game so impressive on the offensive end is his versatility. He has shown that he can score from all three areas of the floor (at the rim; from the midrange; from the three-point line), and it is that versatility and lethal shooting stroke that makes him such a tough individual match-up. He’s a legitimate 6’7” who can play shooting guard, which creates significant size mismatches on the perimeter. In the below frame, St. John’s Federico Mussini (just 6’2”, 170 pounds) desperately tries to front the much taller and longer Coffey, but he ends up gambling on the play and Coffey as a result finishes strong over a would-be shot-blocker:


Coffey has also been outstanding in transition and attacking the basket, using his long stride to get into the open court and find easy baskets.  His sneaky athleticism along with his length allows him to draw fouls even against defenders in decent position. Here, St. John’s Richard Freudenberg has a step on him on the fast break, but Coffey beats him to the basket and uses his body to draw a foul.

His shot is still coming along more slowly (only 31 percent from deep thus far), but his stroke is there. He’s made 3-of-6 in the last two games, and his pure free throw stroke suggests that he will find his range sooner rather than later. Another impressive aspect of his game is his maturity. He has already shown a willingness to pass when the defense doesn’t give him an opening (10 assists through five games), and he has only committed five turnovers in the team’s subsequent four games after a four-miscue performance in the season opener.

Coffey has had plenty of help on offense – Nate Mason has been outstanding at the point guard position and Dupree McBrayer is shooting the lights out – but the talented lefty holds the key to unlocking Minnesota’s offensive ceiling. Already ranked 56th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, that ranking should continue to rise as Coffey grows into his role as the team’s offensive alpha dog. What that means for Minnesota’s season as a whole – securing Pitino’s job, climbing the Big Ten standings, maybe even pushing for an NCAA Tournament bid – remains to be seen, but those following the Gophers’ program can certainly do so with a brighter outlook this holiday season.

Jim Root (8 Posts)

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