The implosion of the Minnesota Gophers is one I have never really seen in college basketball. A team that was so promising to begin the season has now become one the nation’s biggest pariahs. Never has a team’s weaknesses become so blatantly evident in such a short amount of time. One of the saddest parts about this entire season is that Richard Pitino really cannot do anything about it. Another depressing aspect to this year is how poorly a great player like Nate Mason is being sent off.
Both Mason and Jordan Murphy are having tremendous seasons even though the team as a whole has struggled. Quite frankly, Mason and Murphy have been attempting to put this team on their backs as they have moved forward without Reggie Lynch and Amir Coffey. The result in the win-loss column is not great, but Mason and Murphy have done everything in their power to try and right this ship. Unfortunately, their efforts have gone unnoticed considering the rest of the roster has not done enough to collect consistent victories.
Though the main narrative now is Minnesota’s seven game losing streak, there is actually a more grim scenario in play. In their last 11 games (all of them Big Ten contests) they have lost 10 of those games with the one win coming against Penn State. Here are Mason and Murphy’s per game numbers in that 11 game stretch compared to the rest of their team.
- Mason and Murphy: 362 total points, 33 points per game
- Rest of team: 378 total points, 34 points per game
As you look at that it may not seem like Mason and Murphy are doing anything spectacular as a duo. Their numbers compared to the rest of the Gophers roster is nearly the same over the last 11 games. However, there are nine other players on the Minnesota roster that get consistent playing time. Meaning that Mason and Murphy produce almost the exact same amount of offense as nine other players combined. Does that not seem odd in any regard?
- Mason and Murphy: 120 total points, 40 points per game
- Rest of team: 94 total points, 31 points per game
So now, the two Gopher stars have been far and away more productive than the rest of the roster. This illustrates the biggest issue Minnesota has today, which is depth. That is a point that has been overstated for quite a while here at BTP. However, the lack of a bench presence puts much more pressure on Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy. They have been counted on all season in some regard, but now they have the entire weight of the team on their shoulders. That is a swift way to completely burn out a basketball player.
For Mason, he is laying it all on the line considering it his final season. With no real NBA prospects on the horizon, he is leaving it all on the floor. And it is a damn shame to see him working so hard only to lose by double figures every night. With Murphy, he will be returning next season, and will most likely be a Big Ten Player of the Year favorite. One hopes that this heavy workload will not wear the junior forward out in advance of a presumably successful senior campaign.
You have to respect the effort Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy are putting in to get this team back on track. It may only be moral victories at this point for the Minnesota Gophers, but they will take what they can get. I commend Mason and Murphy for their efforts because without them, the team would be worse off than they already are.