Gopher Basketball Will Go as Far as Amir Coffey Takes Them

PHOTO: gophersports.com

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When you have look back at the Gophers’ first 19 Big Ten games this season, the proof is in the pudding. When Amir Coffey is the best player in Maroon and Gold, he’s usually the best player on the floor AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, the Gophers are a way better team.

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Amir Coffey 2018-19 Big Ten Game Log

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The Gophers have two quadrant-one victories on their Big Ten resume. The first was early in the season against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, where Amir landed 21 points and 6 rebounds, willing the Gophers to victory.

The second was last week at home vs Purdue when the Hopkins graduate exploded for 32 points and 8 rebounds. He took over right from the tip and the Boilermakers never fully recovered. Without huge performances from Amir Coffey in both of the Wisconsin and Purdue games, we win neither.

In fact, as you can see from the table above; the Gophers have 4 wins over top-50 NET teams and Coffey had massive showings in 3 of the 4. Meanwhile, when Amir isn’t going…. neither does the team. We have 3 really bad losses on the year and Coffey couldn’t get to double-digit points in the 2 of those 3. He only scored 11 points in the other one and his assists and rebounds are always down in those games too.

When he’s bad and the the Gophers play good teams…. things get reeeeeeaaaaaal ugly. Look no further than the second game vs Michigan or the beat down by Michigan State. Coffey went for a TOTAL of 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists. The Gophers lost by a combined 33 points and it should have been worse. The Michigan game ended a lot closer on paper than it was in-person.

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Before the Purdue win, things turned in a more positive direction quite quickly in the previous game, when Coffey had his best outing of the season vs Northwestern. He put up 31 points as part of his double-double, spring-boarding him into another big game and the win vs the Boilermakers earlier this week at The Barn

Now, Amir Coffey has a chance to cement the Gophers into the NCAA Tournament by building on the momentum he created last week, leaving behind the bad taste of his mid-season swoon. On Friday night the Gophers travel to the #24 Maryland Terrapins. A dub would bolster the total win column to 20 and that, along with a .500 record in a crowded Big Ten, would earn them an easy invite to the dance (along with a respectable seed).

A loss however, would require one victory in the Big Ten Tournament next week to make sure Selection Sunday isn’t comparable to a torture chamber.

For the record, I do believe the Gophers still dance if they lose two straight and end the season with 19 wins. It’s a weak bubble this year and the Big Ten is the best conference from top to bottom. But, leaving the door open for a surprise conference winner or a stupid committee decision isn’t the way you want to enter Selection Sunday.

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But continued great performance from Coffey, to finish out Big Ten play and possibly surprise some people in the NCAA Tournament, wouldn’t just be a massive key to the success of the Gophers, as a team. Amir has the chance to cement himself as a perceived first round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft when he enters his Senior year.

Let’s throw out some hypotheticals to prove my point.

Coming into the season, Coffey wasn’t just seen as a possible NBAer. He was as a guy who had the talent to possibly leave early, draftable after his Junior season. He has all of the measurables you would want. He’s 6-8 and can play the 2 or 3 and even PG in a pinch. He has a high motor and you won’t have to worry about his effort on the court or his character off of it. And he oozes with talent.

Those mutterings had cooled as the season went on though, and nobody is talking about that anymore. The consistency isn’t there.

But, all of that can change with a big March. We’ve seen March Madness catapult no-names to the top of the draft board before and while that might be a bit far-fetched for this upcoming draft class, there’s no doubt the effect it would have on Amir’s future draft stock. It’s not crazy to suggest that a high-functioning Amir Coffey can average 25+ PPG with nightly rebound and assist totals that both chase closer to 10 than to 5. That would turn some heads around the NBA scouting circles.

I’m already excited for next year’s way-too-early mock drafts…

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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