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Minnesota basketball taking care of business early on in 2016-17

Following an awful 2015-2016 season, the Golden Gophers are off to a hot start on their home court

NCAA Basketball: Southern Illinois at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are off to a great start this season. They have a 6-1 record after losing 67-75 in a tough game on the road at Florida State. Despite losing their first game, hopes are high that this team can rebound from last year’s disastrous performance when they only won two conference games all season.

Liking the Taste of Home Cooking

Coming off such an awful season, the schedule for this year’s Minnesota team was very kind. The first six games the Gophers played were all at home. Their first road game of the year was the loss to Florida State in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge. Minnesota seemed to really enjoy playing at home. They beat two major conference opponents, St. John’s and Arkansas. They also beat a few solid mid-major programs like Texas-Arlington and Southern Illinois.

Improved Scoring

One of the reasons that Minnesota has found success early in the year is because they are scoring in bunches. In fact, they scored at least 80 points in each of their first five games. Last year, it was often up to Nate Mason to take it upon himself to score as his teammates did not offer him much support.

Mason led the team in scoring last year with an average of 13.8 points per game, but this year he has help. This year, Mason’s scoring is slightly down at an average of 12.7 points per game, but there are also three other Minnesota players averaging double figures in scoring.

Hot Coffey

Minnesota’s leading scorer this year is freshman Amir Coffey, who is averaging 14.6 points per game. Amir actually grew up and played high school ball in Minnesota, and it seems that he may be the most crucial player for the Gophers. In their lone loss at Florida State, Coffey had his worst performance of the year. He shot three for 10 from the field, scored just seven points and was plagued with foul trouble. It was the first bad game for the freshman, and they will need him to shake it off and bounce back. It appears early in the season that as Coffey goes so go the Gophers.

The other two Minnesota players averaging double figures every night are sophomores Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy. Surrounded by three players that can all score at will, Mason never has to feel like he needs to do everything as he did much of last year. Mason can now be more of a facilitator on offense, and you are seeing the difference as he is averaging 5.1 assists per game to lead the team.

One concern that Gophers fans have is whether this team’s impressive record actually reflects how good they are. They have only played one road game so far, and they lost it. They also have not faced any ranked teams yet. Time will tell, but the fact that Minnesota was leading at halftime against Florida State is promising. They look much better than last year’s team, and they may have a chance to play in the postseason this year.