Last night after Minnesota was ripped apart by South Dakota State for its second consecutive loss, coach Richard Pitino suggested that he might make some changes.
“You’ve got to be open to anything,” he said. “You really do. Obviously what we’re doing is not working, so I’ve got to look myself in the mirror and figure this thing out.”
Pitino didn’t give any hint to what he might tweak, but most Wednesday morning couch point guards who watched the 84-70 beat-down on Tuesday probably have a few ideas of their own.
Here are my thoughts on three ways Pitino could shake things up:
Start small. Why not? Hey, matching up with some teams won’t be ideal with a lot of teams Minnesota will face, but let’s face it: nothing is ideal on this squad. You play what you’ve got, and the Gophers best players are all guards and smallish forwards. That’s where Minnesota’s talent lies. And the reality is, Gophers have displayed their best energy and effectiveness when they’ve gone small. Just looking at the last four games, Minnesota is -27 when it’s gone “big” – that is, with a center on the court, and +19 when they’ve gone “small” – without a center. There isn’t much clearer than that.
Reward the youth. Last night, Pitino sent in three freshmen and two sophomores to finish the game because he felt they were the ones playing the hardest and competing the most. Lately, the coach has been punishing starters senior Carlos Morris and redshirt junior Charles Buggs, a lot, for dumb mistakes or not trying hard enough on defense. Meanwhile, we’ve seen some really clutch moments from Kevin Dorsey, who while at times is out of control, is the definition of a gamer, and Jordan Murphy, who even when he’s not dominating has been pretty steady. Why not switch up the starting five and give the youngsters a chance? Even Dupree McBrayer last night showed more life than we’ve seen from Morris in the last three games, driving at the hoop and getting to the line.
Get creative. Send the team to one of these, where they’ve got to strategize and use each others' strengths in order to get out of a locked room. Or send them through an obstacle course blindfolded and force all of them to take turns trying to direct their teammates. Or force them to take a cooking class but they have to eat the final product of the teammate to their right. Or lock them all in a single dorm room overnight, take away their phones and see what happens. Anything to get the players to start talking, taking charge and figuring out what role they play in a leadership hierarchy. Heck, maybe they’d have a little fun, too. It’s a long season. Sounds a little hokey, sure, but it could be helpful.