ESPN: Why are men's college basketball's most surprising teams winning in 2021-22? (MN: The Gophers control tempo, they take care of the ball)

BleedGopher

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per ESPN:

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Preseason: Picked last in unofficial preseason Big Ten media poll

Now: 10-1 (1-1), lone loss to Michigan State

Key to the rest of the season: Ben Johnson has done a tremendous job as a first-year head coach, guiding Minnesota to road wins at Michigan and Mississippi State, as well as a neutral-court victory over Western Kentucky. While other teams on this list have done it with high-major transfers, Johnson has mostly dipped into the mid-major ranks for his impact players. Jamison Battle (George Washington) has been one of the best transfers in the country, while Payton Willis (Charleston) is a great second option. Eylijah Stephens (Lafayette), Luke Loewe (William & Mary) and Sean Sutherlin (New Hampshire) have all played key roles.

The Gophers control tempo, they take care of the ball (for the most part; more on that in a second) and they have two big-time scorers in Battle and Willis. Do they have enough outside of those two to consistently win in the Big Ten?

"I think they have to find other ways to score beyond Willis and Battle," one coach said. "If those guys don't make shots, they can struggle."

NCAA tournament team? The Gophers are perhaps the biggest surprise on this list, given the roster turnover last spring. And despite the impressive road win at Michigan, they've had a slew of close wins. While they did a great job taking care of the ball against Mississippi State, Michigan State and Michigan, they also just turned it over 28 times against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

"I don't think they're an NCAA tournament team," one opposing coach said. "I don't love their talent. They play very slow and that makes for a very small margin of error. And they can turn it over."


Go Gophers!
 


HitMeAgainIAmStillMoving

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Don't control tempo too much. If they start bring up past half court then look over at the bench for 9 seconds then I will blame some of the people in this room and then I do not forgive.
 

Gophergrandpa

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Don't control tempo too much. If they start bring up past half court then look over at the bench for 9 seconds then I will blame some of the people in this room and then I do not forgive.
And if they run the shot click down to zero on every possession before taking a hurried shot …
 

DeathClutch

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"And they can turn it over."

Huh?

We had one outlier game where we turned it over 28 times. Our second highest total is 14 turnovers against Princeton and that was a 2 OT game. By every metric we're in the 90+ percentile in terms of taking care of the ball.
 


PMWinSTP

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Of course they can make the tournament. Marginal talent; slow pace; good defense; low turnovers? Now what historically successful B1G team does that remind me of? Oh yeah, those guys.
Opposing coach quote is hilarious. This team knows how to win.
 



cjbfbp

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"I think they have to find other ways to score beyond Willis and Battle," one coach said. "If those guys don't make shots, they can struggle."

"I don't think they're an NCAA tournament team," one opposing coach said. "I don't love their talent. They play very slow and that makes for a very small margin of error. And they can turn it over."

I don't see anything too objectionable here other than the mischaracterization of being turnover prone overall. Ben Johnson & Company are trying to accomplish something in a way that is rather unprecedented in the conference so you can't blame some opposing coaches for being skeptical.

The first statement is entirely true. Stephens, Sutherlin, and even Curry have had their moments but it's tough to expect that group to combine for 40 or more points if the top two are shut down.

Given their lack of depth, they don't have a large margin for error and plenty of Gopher fans also have doubts that they'll make the NCAA tournament. Certainly the majority of posters here did not "love their talent" prior to the season. People figured Battle would be good but he's been better than expected and Willis definitely has improved significantly through his 6 post-high school years. Of course, this team isn't really about "talent" in the traditional sense. It's about maturity, experience, skill, mental toughness, and responsiveness to coaching.
 



Bad Gopher

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I talked to one of my ISU buddies last night about how the Cyclones are doing it. He said they're playing defense, which is much of how the Gophers are doing it. I tell ya: you play defense, and you give yourself a chance in any game.
 

jovs

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Stephens can shoot and Loewe finds ways to score, I think the key is going to be Curry down the stretch, if he can find a way to get a consistent 10 points a game it would make a huge difference..
 




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