One common complaint aimed at Gophers coach Tubby Smith is that he doesn’t play his starters enough.
Fans, who have watched the bench struggle, have been vocal on Twitter (and in countless emails to me) with their concerns of the flip-flop in minute distribution.
As far as I can tell, there isn’t a quick way to look up starter minutes if the same five haven't started for the entire conference season (please, if there is, someone fill me in and mock me for the 3.5 hours I spent doing this by hand), so I decided to go through and compare the Gophers with the opponents from their last four losses, plus their upcoming opponent (Indiana, Tuesday at 6 p.m.).
What I found surprised me:
First off, when comparing with Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State and Indiana, Minnesota starters actually have the most minutes (and the largest percentage of minutes) of any of those teams during their Big Ten slates.
(This includes rotating starters. For example: Anthony Clemmons started seven games for Iowa and Melsahn Basabe, six. So only the minutes from Clemmons first seven starting games are counted in with the starters, the rest with the bench. Same with Basabe. And so on.)
Since that finding caught me off guard, I decided to delve into how the Gophers’ bench compared with other benches in their production.
The results of that were much less shocking: of the aforementioned six teams the Gophers’ bench was the second least productive.
Therefore it makes sense that Smith uses his starters a lot – and a lot more than people realize, apparently – but it also indicates that getting more scoring might not be as simple as playing the starters more minutes as a whole.
That's because the Gophers' starters are also less efficient than any of these teams when they are in the game.
For example, the Gophers starters’ score nine percent more than Iowa’s starters do, but they work 13.5 percent harder to do so. Michigan State starters’ work 0.7 percent less than the Gophers’ starters do, but they score nearly three percent more.
And most notably, the Gophers’ starters work 0.5 percent harder to score 9 percent fewer points than Indiana’s bench does.
Could this be partly attributed to the way in which Gophers’ starters are used (not getting much time as a group of five) or is the change talent just that big of a drop off?
I have written a little bit about that subject and plan to delve into it more in the coming days, but for now, I’m getting out of this black hole of statistics.
My findings in full:
SM = starter minutes
BM = bench minutes
SP = starter points
BP = bench points
B%/M = bench percentage of minutes
B%/P = bench percentage of points
Indiana (14 games):
BM: 729 (total of 2800)
BP: 186 (total of 1066 points)
Iowa (13 games):
BM: 1045 (total of 2675 – 3 OT sessions)
BP: 317 (total of 878 points)
Ohio State (14 games):
BM: 822 (2825 – 1 OT)
Illinois (14 games)
BM: 834 (total of 2800)
BP: 223 (total of 917
Michigan State (14 games):
Gophers (14 games):