Hoop Vision: Blake Hoffarber was first in the nation in offensive rating. Outstanding shooting percentages and quality turnover prevention were the driving factors. Where and when did Hoffarber's shots occur in 2009-2010?
The Daily Gopher: The easy answer is that Hoffarber's shots came from behind the arc. 75.8% of his shots were threes. I'm not sure where that stat compares to the rest of SGs around the country but 5.2 three-point attempts per game compared to just 1.7 twos is a pretty significant ratio. More specifically he was most proficient in transition. The Gophers turned their opponents over at a pretty high rate, especially early in the season. Hoffarber is very good at running wide, finding an open spot on the wing and then draining the three when receiving the pass. In the half-court the Gophers really were not very good at running offensive sets to get him some open shots. His shots in the half-court set usually would come on a ball reversal when the defender would fall asleep and choose to not close out on him.
Hoop Vision: Was Hoffarber's low turnover percentage more from his overall timidness in the Gopher's offense or quality decision making?
The Daily Gopher: I'll say a little of both and a lot of neither. Hoffarber's low turnover rate is largely due to the fact that he does not put the ball on the floor that often. He is a great shooter and a great passer, but he is not athletic enough to create shots with penetration. He is smart enough to know that and rarely did he put the ball on floor, putting him in position to turn the ball over.
Hoop Vision: Hoffarber shot 47% from 3 and 59% from 2, both excellent marks. However, he shot more than three times as many 3's as 2's. How big of an impact did Hoffarber's three point efficiency have on the other Minnesota players? Did his range open up space for Westbrook, Johnson, Joseph, and company?
The Daily Gopher: Yes, yes and yes. Not only was everyone better but the Gophers were 13-1 when Hoffarber scored 11 points or more last year (19-2 over the last two years). The problem is he doesn't hit that magical 11 point mark nearly enough. For a guy with his shooting ability, he really should be more of a focal point and be taking at least two or three more shots per game. This gets back to an earlier point that the Gopher offense doesn't do nearly enough to run him off screens and run offensive sets exclusively for him. He really should not be 4th on his own team for shots attempted. When you break it down by minutes he would take a shot every 4 minutes, 7th on the team for guys over 300 minutes. Lawrence Westbrook led the team taking a shot every 2.7 minutes.
Hoop Vision: Did Hoffarber best utilize his talents in the Gopher's offense or could he have played a more prominent role while keeping his excellent efficiency?
The Daily Gopher: I think if he was more of an offensive focal point, you would obviously see his efficiency drop off a little but not by much. The thing is that defenses already focus on him at all times. So if the Gopher offense were to run more of their offense through him, it is not like defenses would adjust and spend more time trying to slow him down. They already put one of their best defenders (usually a longer and more athletic one) on him and that defender typically is not responsible for helpside defense. Maybe fatigue would be more of a factor if he is running off screens and not allowed to sit out behind the arc quite as much. But that would go both ways as his defender would be taxed more as well. In the end, the Gophers need to at least find out how much his efficiency would drop. He isn't the most athletic player on the floor and he won't create his own shots, but he is savvy. Give him the opportunity to come off screens and trust him to make good decisions with the ball. Putting the defense in more situations where someone has to choose to leave their man to guard Hoffarber or let him have an open three is exactly the kind of situations the Gopher offense needs to get itself into.
Hoop Vision: Hoffarber was not nearly as efficient during his sophomore season. His turnover percentage was 22.6% and he only shot 34% from long range. Will the tremendous strides made from sophomore to junior year remain for 2010-11 or is regression due to occur?
The Daily Gopher: His sophomore year was the abberation. I do not think you will see great statistical improvement from his JR to SR year, but I'd be shocked to see him regress to anything near his Sophomore year numbers. His sophomore year was a year where he could just never get on track. Shooters go through droughts but his was started in January and lasted through the NCAA Tournament loss to Texas.
Hoop Vision: What can we expect from Minnesota as a whole in 2010-11?
The Daily Gopher: There is plenty of talent on this roster but there are a number of question marks. Two key players are still in limbo as to whether or not they'll be playing this year, both starters and key positions for this team. Al Nolen missed half the season due to academic issues and Trevor Mbakwe missed the entire season due to pending legal issues (UPDATE). If both issues are resolved then Nolen is our starting PG and Mbakwe is our starting PF. So step one is getting everyone eligible, adding those two completely change the outlook of the 2010-11 season. After getting those guys on the roster it comes down last year's sophomores and freshman improving. The soon to be juniors are the nucleus of the team. Devoe Joseph, Ralph Sampson and Colten Iverson have all been solid but they need to be better and more consistent. Rodney Williams showed flashes of great athleticism in his freshman season but he needs to grow by leaps and bounds in his sophomore year. He is capable of being our most dynamic player but he needs to understand his role in the offense and how to play Tubby's demanding defensive system. Assuming Mbakwe and Nolen play, and assuming even just moderate improvement from the rest of the roster I believe this team will fighting to finish anywhere from 3rd to 5th in the Big Ten. There is the talent to compete for a conference title but the starts kind of have to align for that to be realistic possibility. If guys do not become eligible and Williams doesn't figure out how to get himself on the floor, this team will miss the NCAA Tournament and could finish way down in the Big Ten pecking order.