While Richard Pitino’s first season as the head coach at Minnesota didn’t finish with a trip to the NCAA tournament the Golden Gophers did experience success, winning 25 games and the Postseason NIT crown. The question facing Pitino and his program this offseason is what they’ll be able to do for an encore, and with four starters returning the NCAA tournament is a realistic expectation for the 2014-15 squad.
In an interview with Marcus R. Fuller of the Pioneer Press, Pitino discussed a variety of topics including what Minnesota needs to improve upon this summer. One area that came up: defense. And with that in mind, Pitino said he’s taking a different approach to evaluating where his team needs to get better defensively.
This offseason for me is going to be all about looking at our weaknesses and getting better at them. Right now, I’ve got our video guy breaking down every single basket that was scored on us. I’ve never done it before. We’re going to do a comprehensive study because our defense was not on par with our offense. We’re going to find out what the issues were and who was responsible for them. It’s going to be so much about improving on that because that was a weakness. We’ve got to get better at that.
The numbers certainly back up Pitino’s thoughts on Minnesota’s play on the defensive end of the floor, with the Golden Gophers finishing the season ranked ninth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (67.7 ppg allowed) and tenth in both field goal (42.6%) and three-point (34.3%) percentage defense.
And from a tempo-neutral standpoint, in conference play Minnesota was the Big Ten’s worst defensive team from an efficiency standpoint and they ranked tenth in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage.
The return of players such as guards Andre Hollins and Dre Mathieu and big men Elliot Eliason and Maurice Walker will help matters, as they’ll be more familiar with the things Pitino wants done on both ends of the floor. Also of note is the seven-member recruiting class that will give Minnesota the depth needed to play the uptempo style that Pitino prefers, hopefully with more consistency on defense coming as a result.
Minnesota has the tools needed to be a solid offensive team in 2014-15 but to take the next step the Golden Gophers will have to improve defensively, and Pitino has clearly zeroed in on that area heading into the summer.
National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1
6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)
Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)
North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.
After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.
These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.
North Carolina advanced to the Final Four for the second consecutive season and 20th time overall as the No. 1 seed Tar Heels outlasted No. 2 seed Kentucky, 75-73, during Sunday’s South Regional final in Memphis.
Reserve forward Luke Maye knocked in the game-winning jumper for the Tar Heels with 0.3 seconds left to break a 73-all tie after Kentucky’s Malik Monk tied the game with a three-pointer on the previous possession.
The Tar Heels (31-7) overcame an ankle issue from junior point guard Joel Berry as North Carolina was led by Justin Jackson’s 19 points.
Maye also stepped up with a big game for North Carolina as he continued his strong March with 17 points. Berry added 11 points, as he went to the locker room during the first half to get his ankle looked at before returning to play later in the half.
Kentucky (32-6) won the regular-season matchup of these teams, 103-100, in Las Vegas in December as their freshmen guards struggled to perform on Sunday. After De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined for 71 points in that previous win over the Tar Heels, the two freshmen studs couldn’t get going.
Both of them dealt with first-half foul trouble as Fox finished with 13 points while Monk was held to 12 points. Also battling foul trouble in the first half, freshman Bam Adebayo added 13 points for the Wildcats.
With Fox and Monk struggling to generate consistent offense, the Wildcats were able to stay in the game thanks to great performances from reserves like Isaac Humphries (career-high 12 points) and senior Dominique Hawkins (10 points.
North Carolina advances to face No. 3 seed Oregon in next weekend’s Final Four.
South Carolina earned its first trip to the Final Four with its win over SEC-rival Florida on Sunday.
The Gamecocks made sure to celebrate properly when head coach Frank Martin hit the locker room after the game by dousing him in water before Martin gave another speech.
Darius Rucker, the former front man of Hootie and the Blowfish and a current star in the country music world, is a lifelong South Carolina Gamecocks fan.
This isn’t really a secret.
Hell, on Friday night at a concert he was playing, Rucker set up TVs so that he would be able to watch South Carolina take on Baylor:
You probably didn’t realize just how big of a fan he actually is until you saw him, sitting second row at the regional final in New York City on Sunday afternoon, tearing up as the Gamecocks advanced to the Final Four:
Let ’em cry, Darius, if the tears fall down like rain.