Why The Minnesota Golden Gophers Are Still Dangerous In March
Even if the Golden Gophers will not contend for a Big Ten regular-season title, or perhaps even a Tournament title after losing to Indiana and Michigan, the now clear-cut top two teams in the conference, Minnesota should still be deemed a very dangerous team come March. Why? They are the complete package offensively and can get after it defensively. Tubby Smith just needs some more consistency and the Golden Gophers are capable of winning on any given night.
Minnesota is led by a tremendous frontcourt of Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams. Now, both are playing out of their natural position given the Golden Gophers' lack of size, but it works. Mbakwe is a complete hustle and effort player with a non-stop motor, solid athleticism (even with an injury-plagued career) and excellent toughness. Despite just getting his legs back under him, Mbakwe is averaging a higher offensive rebounding percentage than last season, when he led the Big Ten.
Mbakwe's partner in crime, Rodney Williams, a small forward at the NBA level, is playing power forward, which suits him just fine given decent size (6'7") and off the charts athleticism. His motor is improved from a year ago to the point where he is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country and 2nd in the Big Ten despite being undersized on a nightly basis.
In the backcourt, guards Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman and Andre Hollins are all under-rated and undervalued given the complete stat-sheet filling production they given. None are really true point guards, yet all 3 spend time at the position, being crafty enough to play on the ball or off given the particular lineup, which makes them difficult to matchup with. On the defensive end, same story. All 3 can play 3 wing positions aggressively, to get into the passing lanes and force turnovers. The trio, which gets very little credit, combine to average: 36 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals per game.