The Gophers' defensive struggles have been well-cited.
Coach Richard Pitino disagrees with my assessment, but I hadn't seen anything yet to convince me that things haven't been pretty bad and may be destined to get worse.
Until last night, when Minnesota switched from their 2-3 zone to man-to-man midway through the second half, it seemed like the defense rebounded and gave the Gophers a spark of life.
Considering the Gophers are now in the midst of a three-game slide, their first of the season and one that occurred over the supposedly "soft" portion of the schedule, substantials changes could be justified.
Should one of them be a switch to mostly man defense?
One of the problems with the Gophers' zone this season is it has handed opponents the keys to the game, should they be able to hit shots. Minnesota has been decent when it comes to stopping the two-point shot (they rank fifth in the league, allowing opponents to shoot 46.1 according to kenpom.com), but if you can get hot from behind the arc, you can probably beat Minnesota. The Gophers are second-to-last in the league (they did just pull out of the basement though!) in three-point defense with conference foes shooting 36.4 percent from that range.
Last night, it looked like that trend could continue, with the Boilermakers making five of their first 12 triple attempts (41.6 percent). Then the Gophers switched to man, and Purdue managed just one of six attempts (16.6 percent) the rest of the way. The Gophers also held Purdue to 37.5 shooting in the second half and OTs combined after allowing the Boilermakers to convert 52 percent of their shots from the field in the first.
It didn't really help with the defensive rebounding problem (reminder: Purdue got 23 offensive rebounds) as one would think it might, but then, what was helping with that? (hint: nothing.)
It's an extremely small sample size, of course, so we don't know that going to man-to-man would solve the Gophers' defensive woes. It might not! As Pitino likes to point out often, I am not a coach.
But with the status quo slugging along, perhaps it's worth a try.