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It sounds odd to say that anyone affiliated with the Minnesota basketball program benefited from Trevor Mbakwe's season-ending injury last December. That's exactly what happened, though, in the case of fellow forward Rodney Williams.
Before Mbakwe went down against Dayton, Williams was averaging 7.7 points and 2.7 rebounds. After the injury, Williams moved to power forward himself and upped his averages to 13.3 points and 6.2 boards.
Those numbers weren't quite equivalent to Mbakwe's lost production, but they were vastly superior to anything Williams had recorded before.
Williams saved the best for last, averaging 19.3 points on 62 percent shooting over the Gophers' final six games, including their run to the NIT final. He still needs to add a jumpshot, and even his set shooting needs a lot of work. Williams shot only 59 percent from the line last season, and that's a career high.
Defensively, Williams established himself as a playmaker, joining Indiana's Cody Zeller as the only players to finish in the Big Ten's top 10 in both steals and blocks.
With Mbakwe back, defenses have to respect him in the post, leaving them less able to focus on Williams. Moving back to his natural small forward position, Williams will need that shooting improvement to justify this ranking, but if he gets it, look for Minnesota to force themselves into NCAA tournament talk.