slight changes are in order for Breaking Down the Box, just so you know. Since I was unable to watch the game and only listened to a portion of the WCCO broadcast much of this is of course based on the box.
Game Ball - Blake Hoffarber
The freshman shooting guard continued his improved and more confident play as he had his coming put party on Saturday. Blake hit 6 threes on his way 21 points and is adding valuable depth to the already surprising gopher bench. The Star Tribune's Myron Medcalf goes so far as to say that Hoffarber is "quickly solidifying his place as one of the team's go-to scorers and best offensive options." I don't know if I'm willing to go that far quite yet. I still think that he is at best our distant 4th best offensive option (Nolen and Westbrook will have their nights as well).
But I love that we have a pure shooter who is confident enough to shoot whenever he is in rhythm and can get it off. He isn't a scorer yet who can get by his defender and score in the lane or find the open man at the rim, but he is a shooter and if he requires a defender to glue to him that opens up the rest of the floor for they guys who are scorers. If his defender can't help on penetration because he knows Blake will drill a 3, then that will make life easier for McKenzie and the frontcourt.
And in addition to how he will help the offense it is huge to have more and more talent coming off the bench. What was supposed to be a real weakness for the gophers is turning into a strength. We have diversity coming off the bench...
- PG - Nolen - controls the game and is playing great at the PG spot
- SG - Hoffarber - becoming a dangerous shooter who can fill up the box score
- SF - Johnson - defending great and has been a spark
- C - Williams - rebounding and giving more than anybody imagined
- G - Payton - not sure what he offers except solid min so others can rest
eFG% - 61.5 is great, Hoffarber's 6 threes helps a lot
Turnover% - 16.6 - lowest of the season
National Rankings... intersting that Ken Pomroy's collection of temp-free stats with rankings and season predictions.
Offensive Efficiency - 25th - (191st last year)
Off Rebounding % - 3rd - (310th last year!)
Block % - 12th - (218th last year)
Predicted Record - 23-7
Pomroy RPI - 32nd - bubble team baby
X-Factor - Lawrence McKenzie
I'm going with an odd choice here. McKenzie gave us his 2nd game of the short season scoring less than 5 points. What I love is that despite his 20% shooting night he still gave us 5 assists and only two turnovers. And I love that he didn't throw up a ton of shots trying to "get it going." If he can play controlled and if we can score 90 points (regardless of the opponent) when he isn't putting in the hoop then this team will win more games than even I thought they would (and I drink a lot of kool aid).
What Does this Mean?
Again, not a whole lot as this is a rebuilding team. The Rams won't be sniffing the Tourney (or .500 for that matter), but we executed our game plan and we dominated. These are games that we would win 9/10 of the time but the fact that we are dominating is very encouraging. The Big Ten season will be very different but as I watch the other conference teams more and more only a couple of them truly scare me. Many will be very winable. Fortunately we still have nearly a month to get better. I can't wait for some B10 games!