This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Why are the Gophers so good at O-rebounding, but terrible at D-rebounding?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: January 9, 2013 - 12:44 PM

It’s no secret that the Gophers have performed really well on the offensive boards this year – they’re still leading the nation with offensive rebounding percentage with an average of 49.7 percent (of available offensive boards), in fact.

It’s a statistic that’s been cited by media the nation over as a validation of why the Gophers are just THIS good and belong at No. 8 in the country.

But the confounding other half of that statistic is Minnesota’s defensive rebounding percentage (67.4 percent), which is all the way down at No. 241 in the country (if you go by ESPN statistics) or 294 (if insert by NCAA statistics*) – and the Gophers are dead last in their conference in that category.

I talked to two coaches of opponents the Gophers have played this season – Matt Driscoll of North Florida and Jeff Jones of American -- to get their thoughts on the vast discrepancy (both were surprised the rebounding percentages were that different).

The Driscoll theory: The North Florida had plenty of theories at the ready –

Do the Gophers foul a lot (losing defensive rebounds there)? Yes, but not an obscene amount. Minnesota fouls a good bit, but not an obscene amount, falling at No. 80 (best) nationwide with an average of 16.4 a game (by comparison, Penn State fouls the most of any Big Ten team, and is 339th in the nation with 21.6).

Do opponents shoot a lot of 3’s against the Gophers (are they not doing the job on the long D rebounds?): Also not obscene – opponents attempt an average of 17.5 3-pointers per game against the Gophers, and one of the beauties of this Minnesota team is that it shares rebounds along with points. Mbakwe leads the starting five with 7.7 rebounds a game and Rodney Williams follows with six – but then Joe Coleman chips in with 4.3 a game, Austin Hollins adds 3.4 and Andre Hollins, 2.5.

Finally, Driscoll suggested that the Gophers’ athleticism and nose for the ball of the offensive end led to them focusing on those strengths in the non-conference schedule, against inferior teams – choosing instead to simply out-run and out-score them -- which could account for the poor rebounding. By that theory, the Gophers would be improving significantly in Big Ten play, but they would also be performing significantly better against the major conference teams they’ve seen this season.

But going through the numbers, that’s just not the case. The Gophers performed even worse on defensive boards than their yearly average against Richmond, Duke, Memphis, Stanford and FSU.

All good thoughts, but none of which quite fit -- Your turn, Jones.

The Jones theory: The American coach hypothesized that the Gophers simply don’t have the personnel to be great defensive rebounders.

“Defensive rebounding is different than offensive rebounding ,” Jones said. “In offensive rebounding, it’s more a matter of a mindset to go get the ball -- from a defensive rebounding standpoint, you want to check out, you want to go get the ball, but having that inside position makes it kind of a different dynamic.

“None of their post men are really thick. Rodney Williams obviously a really good offensive rebounder. [Elliott} Eliason (who Jones called long and active but certainly not “thick”), he just thinks offensive rebounds. He knows he’s not getting very many shots, so he knows if he wants to touch the ball, that’s the way he’s going to do it.

“Austin Hollins – He is another guy that he’s seemingly built to be a terrific offensive rebounder. He’s coming from the perimeter, he’s quick to the ball, he’s an explosive leader and, you know, he’s persistent. So he creates problems I think. But when it gets to be a wrestling match in there, sometimes those kinds of bodies aren’t quite so effective.”


Of course, Mbakwe is back now, something he wasn’t really when the Gophers played American. And that certainly helps.

But even Jones said that he would be surprised the “thinner” roster would account for so great a difference.

Here’s the most interesting thing I’ve discovered: regardless of the opponent, the Gophers are getting dramatically different in defensive rebounding, although they were so poor earlier in the season it will take a while to be reflected in the national rankings.

According to my own math, the Gophers defensively rebounded at a percentage of 60.8 (219/360) in the first nine games.

In the last six games? Well, the Gophers have catapulted more than 11 percentage points, to 72.1 percent. At the same time, their offensive rebounding has remained remarkably consistent – getting 49.3 percent (147/298) in the first nine games and 50.2 (105/209) in the most recent six.

The improvement in defensive rebounding is extremely significant. Will the Gophers continue that trend? That, I cannot tell you. The Gophers grabbed 76.4 percent of available defensive rebounds against Northwestern, a pretty poor rebounding team, but only 60.9 (below their average) against Michigan State. The Gophers are playing some strong rebounding teams ahead, that is certain.

Even so, I find it notable that the Gophers have rebounded so much better, even against mid majors, than they did against the same caliber team earlier this season

*Which match the official statistics I have received and calculated. ESPN’s stats will occasionally deviate slightly.

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Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 98 FINAL
Miami 115
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Minnesota 105
New Orleans 93 FINAL
Dallas 102
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 2 FINAL
Chicago 5
Montreal 0 FINAL
San Jose 4
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 59 FINAL
Howard 61
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 89 FINAL
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 62 FINAL
Savannah State 49
Texas Southern 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 75
Prairie View 67 FINAL
Alabama State 65
Oklahoma 70 FINAL
Iowa State 77
Grambling St 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 66
Boston College 66 FINAL
Virginia Tech 59
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 64
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
UCF 57 FINAL
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
SMU 60 FINAL
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56

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