And now, the hard part ...
1. Defensive efficiency: The Gophers are one of the most improved teams in the Big Ten, largely because of their defense, ranked No. 22 nationally in efficiency. They lead the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense (37.1) and three-point percentage defense (28.5). The Gophers’ length enables their defense to be disruptive without pressing as much as in coach Richard Pitino’s first two seasons.
2. Finishing strong: The Gophers were 0-21 when trailing with five minutes left in a game during the 2015-16 season. Pitino’s team also lost 17 games the previous two seasons in games decided by six points or fewer. But the Gophers came from behind to beat Vanderbilt 56-52 on Dec. 3 in Sioux Falls, S.D. They are 3-0 this season in games decided by one or two possessions.
3. Newcomers impact: Junior Reggie Lynch provides an inside scoring presence; freshman Amir Coffey (11.9 points per game) is arguably the team’s top offensive weapon; and senior Akeem Springs is a top three-point shooter (40 percent) who provides leadership off the bench. The newcomers need to continue to make major contributions for the Gophers to reach their postseason goals.