We've already looked back at Minnesota's 2015-16 season. You can read our account here, but I've wanted to dive a little deeper into the numbers. The eye-test is one component of assessing a team, but the numbers may tell another story, or sometimes confirm what's apparent to the naked eye. Let's take a look at a few key metrics from the 2015-16 Gopher season.
0-10 & 7-10
Certainly, Minnesota's record wasn't sterling. The Gophers failed to win a road game in 2015-16 (0-10), despite playing tough on the road (at Indiana, Michigan, Penn State and Iowa).
Minnesota did go 7-10 at home, and had a stirring win against Maryland, which boosted morale for a moment. To make noise in the Big Ten, both home and road records need to improve. Most importantly, they'll have to steal a couple games on the road.
-9.2 Scoring Margin (in Big Ten Games)
Overall, Minnesota had a negative-six point scoring margin, and in Big Ten play, it jumped to minus-9.2. The Big Ten number is good for 13th in conference, but only a couple ticks away from Penn State and Illinois (12th and 11th respectively). (Rutgers, by the way, had a minus-20.2 scoring margin in the Big Ten.)
Certainly, something in the minus-nine or ten range isn't good, but let's look at that number a bit closer. The suspensions took a toll. After dominating Rutgers, Minnesota lost the final three games of the season by double digits: 13 (to Illinois), 13 (to Wisconsin) and 23 (gulp, to Rutgers).
We can find other blowout wins (earlier in the season, when at full strength), but the scoring margin jumped late in Big Ten play because of off-the-court circumstances.
The Gophers, as a team, shot 31 percent from three. They made 191 threes on 617 attempts. Meanwhile, their opponents took one fewer three (616 attempts), but made 44 more (235 made threes or 38 percent). Minnesota will need to close the gap next season, by making a higher percentage next season, and/or defending the three point line better.
Just in Big Ten play, Minnesota finished the season last among conference teams in field goal and three-point percentage (39.9 percent FGs & 28.5 percent from three), which suggests the shooting actually worsened in Big Ten play. (Not surprising since the level of competition rises in conference.)
Such a huge concern heading into the season was the lack of experience and depth in the frontcourt. Now, it's worth mentioning that rebounding is a team effort; guards and wings must get involved, especially when undersized.
Only losing the rebounding battle by just over three rebounds a game suggests Minnesota didn't get crushed on the boards. Many thought they might, but it certainly didn't show as a glaring deficiency. It absolutely wasn't great to get outrebounded, even by a little bit, but it didn't kill the season.
With an influx of more size and athleticism next year, Minnesota ought to improve on the glass.
Minnesota actually had a positive turnover margin in conference games. On average, Minnesota turned the ball over 11.5 times, while their opponents averaged 12.3 TOs. This number surprised me, for a couple reasons.
First, Minnesota's defense, which reached a low point in the non-conference loss to South Dakota State, wasn't particularly stingy. They did tighten post-SDSU and were scrappy (for lack of a better term). Guys played with energy, and seemed to communicate better on closeouts and in rotations, forcing opponent turnovers.
Second, reasonable minds might agree that young, inexperienced teams might struggle taking care of the basketball. Not totally the case with this year's Gophers. Nate Mason really steadied the ship early, and his other young backcourt mates, while prone to occasional freshmen errors, really handled the ball well.
We shouldn't get too over-excited about the turnover margin, but the Gophers' turnover margin was fifth-best in the Big Ten. Certainly, a positive number to build on in 2016-17.