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

Austin Hollins struggling vs. man defenses isn't a new trend

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: January 22, 2014 - 12:20 PM

At this point, it's been enough of a trend for Gophers coach Richard Pitino to address it:

Austin Hollins is not himself, has not been himself, for some time.

On Sunday at Iowa, the senior guard showed signs of life -- major signs. He finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals.

That's more like what we were used to early in the season.

But tonight (game vs. Wisconsin will tip at 8 p.m.) will give us a better idea of whether he simply spouted off for one good game, a blip on the radar -- much like the one vs. Purdue -- or if he's starting to break out of his funk. Can he continue the positive curve against a team with a very good man-to-man defense? Or will his struggles extend?

"He's not playing great, so we're not going to ignore that," Pitino said yesterday. "But I think a lot of it has to do with the opponents that he's going against. They do a great job in this league of slapping down when you drive. Michigan State is tremendous at it. Ohio State is tremendous at it. Purdue is tremendous at it. I think the style of the Big Ten is getting to him at little bit, and I think he needs to find other ways to score."

It hasn't looked easy.

In four games against Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State, Hollins averaged 4.8 points a game.

In the two games against Purdue and Iowa, Hollins averaged 15.5 points a game.

Those are two very different Hollins'. Is it simply random or can we predict when he'll have a good game, and when he won't?

Perhaps we can. Purdue and Iowa have a few notable things in common. They're both fast, and they don't primarily play man-to-man defense. 

Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State? All mostly man.

**Hollins also struggled against Penn State, and its pressure zone.

Looking through last year's Big Ten schedule substantiates that trend. In fact, in every game that Hollins played really well offensively -- scoring at least 14 points -- it was against a team that did not primarily feature a man-to-man defense.

And in all but two of the games in which Hollins scored 13 points or fewer, it was against a team that guarded man-to-man most of time.

Take a look (the anomalies -- teams he struggled against that don't primarily play man -- are bolded):

Michigan State, 12 points MAN
Northwestern, 19 points 
Illinois, 6 points
Indiana, 13 points MAN
Michigan, 21 points
Northwestern, 6 points
Wisconsin, 2 points MAN
Nebraska, 13 points MAN
Iowa, 17 points
Michigan State, 8 points MAN
Illinois, 16 points
Wisconsin, 11 points MAN
Iowa, 14 points
Ohio State, 5 points MAN
Indiana, 8 points MAN
Penn State, 4 points MAN
Nebraska, 0 points MAN
Purdue, 12 points 
Illinois, 16 points
UCLA, 16 points
Florida, 10 points MAN 

"I think it's just a little bit of an adjustment period," Pitino said. "I thought last game, you saw a little bit more of the old Austin Hollins. And I think that had to do with Iowa, defensively, more than anything."

It's kind of incredible Hollins went through an entire conference slate without having a big game against a team playing man. It was a different story his sophomore year, when all four of his 14+ point games were against teams playing man.

Can he find that success again? He'll get an opportunity tonight with Wisconsin coming to the Barn.

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