Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where every day is a must-win. Let’s get to it:
*Observers of Gophers men’s basketball will tell you that the team’s lack of reliable three-point shooting (outside of freshman Gabe Kalscheur) has been a disappointing trend this season that has hurt Minnesota on multiple occasions.
Numbers tell us exactly how bad it is — and that it’s not just a problem of accuracy but of volume.
Namely: Out of 353 Division I teams, the Gophers are No. 346 when it comes to percentage of overall field goal attempts that come from three-point range. Only 29.2 percent of the Gophers’ shots this season have come from three-point range — lowest in the Big Ten by a wide margin and the lowest of all the Power 5 conference schools.
Some of that is dictated, of course, by the presence of Jordan Murphy — the Gophers best overall player and double-double machine who has attempted just 18 threes all year (and made just four). Daniel Oturu, another threat in the post and scoring option, has attempted just one three.
Getting the ball to either of those guys is a good idea, so in a sense Richard Pitino’s squad is playing to a strength. The Gophers also make up for some of the inefficiency from lack of three pointers by getting to the free throw line at the second-highest rate in the Big Ten behind Iowa.
But here’s the thing: Kalscheur is making threes at a 42.2 percent clip and takes 5.5 of them a game. Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer are taking 7.6 per game combined, but both are below 30 percent from behind the arc. Nobody else on the roster is shooting them well and/or often.
It adds up to subpar efficiency; the Gophers rank 11th among 14 Big Ten teams in eFG percentage, which factors in the extra point awarded for making threes instead of twos. In 17 conference games, the Gophers have made just 84 threes. Opponents have made 107, meaning Minnesota has been outscored by 69 points from behind the arc in Big Ten play — about four points per game.
I’m not sure what the full solution to this problem is, but I’d start here: Kalscheur — who leads the team in offensive efficiency at 117.1, is shooting a red-hot 56.4 percent from three-point range in his last eight games. But he’s only attempting 4.9 per game in that span.
I’d love to see him double that number going forward, starting tonight at Northwestern. Instead of hoping Coffey or McBrayer get hot from deep — something that has happened too infrequently this season to count on it — building a game plan around the bigs inside and Kalscheur shooting threes as much as possible is the Gophers’ best chance at being more efficient and getting into the NCAA tournament.
*You can’t blame any of the three-point woes on former Gophers coach Tubby Smith, since his players are long gone from Minnesota.
But you CAN blame Tubby for things happening at Memphis. Just ask Penny Hardaway, who took over for Smith as head coach this season. Hardaway recently offered a long and honest critique of one of his best players, Kyvon Davenport. It amounted to Davenport not being much of a student of the game, but it also included some shade thrown Tubby’s way.
“It’s like he just wasn’t interested,” Hardaway said of Davenport. “He wasn’t interested in this style. It seems like he came to play for Coach Tubby, and the way that Coach Tubby allowed him to play and allowed him to be. He wasn’t challenged this much physically or mentally to do things on every possession, so that kind of frustrated him, and he kind of shut down.”
*Follow the bouncing ball to Royce White — a former Smith recruit at Minnesota who bounced to Iowa State and parlayed a great year with the Cyclones into being drafted in the first round by the Rockets. White has said he was then blackballed by the NBA for speaking out about mental health issues. And now White has a new venture: He’s giving mixed martial arts a try.