2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball Preview
Last season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (9- 22 overall, 3- 13 Big Ten) dropped to nine wins after winning 21 two years before. Tying for ninth in the conference, the Gophers saw no post-season college basketball betting in 2006- 2007. This season, Minnesota welcomes big time coach Tubby Smith (387- 145 overall in 16 years), formerly of Kentucky. Smith has won 20 games or more over each of the past 14 seasons. He’s won one NCAA Championship, been to the Elite Eight four times and gotten to the Sweet Sixteen on nine occasions.
Minnesota was pretty much last or next to last in every statistic last season. They were tenth in scoring (60.6 PPG), in scoring defense (66.2 PPG) and in rebounding margin (minus-4.2). The Gophers finished eleventh in assists (12.8 APG) and ninth in turnovers (14.7 TPG). With Smith at the helm all of these numbers should improve.
Upfront, coach Smith knows that progress is needed for inclusion in the tournament brackets. His guys appear to be capable but last season they were unable to deliver. Senior forward Dan Coleman (14.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 45.2 FG%), senior center Spencer Tollackson (12.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 53.2 FG%) and sophomore forward/center Bryce Webster (1.2 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 41.9 FG%) all need to bang the boards with more authority and defend better.
Guard Lawrence McKenzie (14.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 41.6 FG%) became the Golden Gophers’ go-to guy last year. McKenzie proved that he can hit for points (and affect the NCAA point spreads)when needed. One of the biggest problems for Minnesota was the club’s perimeter game. This team must have a few of its many guards develop some new wrinkles. Kevin Payton (2.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 32.8 FG%) has to turn the ball over less, Lawrence Westbrook (3.5 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 37.0 FG%) needs have an arsenal of shots and Jamal Abu-Shamala (6.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 40.0 FG%) must shoot less from the outside, working the ball inside more.
The best news for the Minnesota Golden Gophers is that they landed Tubby Smith. This club desperately needed someone to jolt it back to life, and into our free college basketball picks, Smith has the reputation and know-how to do it. This is, of course, a retooling and rebuilding project. Smith, who has won 73% of his games over 16 years, will need some time to make the Golden Gophers competitive again.