The formula for success for the Minnesota Gophers is simple. Success for the Gophers this season is spelled Blake Hoffarber.
The Gophers are undefeated when Blake Hoffarber scores at least 10 points. When Hoffarber scores 20 points, the average margin of victory for the Gophers is 18 points.
On the other end of spectrum, the Gophers are only 3-7 when Hoffarber scores less than 10 points. When Hoffarber attempts five or fewer shots, the Gophers are 2-5.
Why is Hoffarber the key?
Is it because Blake can beat people of the dribble? No. While Blake has improved his dribble drive penetration to the basket, he rarely shoots within the arc. Hoffarber has attempted only 35 shots inside the arc.
In order to truly appreciate how rare it is for Hoffarber to shoot a two point shot consider this—Hoffarber has 36 three-point shots in just his four games against Northern Illinois, St. Joseph’s, Ohio State, and Northwestern
Is it because he has an uncanny knack of getting to the free throw line? No. Hoffarber has shot free throws in only seven games this season. Hoffarber has only 23 attempts on the season.
Hoffarber is the key because when he gets enough open looks from beyond the arc to knock down a couple of shots, the Gophers are clearly moving the ball around on offense.
Hoffarber is the canary in the coal mine that signals all is well for Minnesota.
If you want to know if Minnesota’s half-court offense is getting good ball rotation and not relying solely on players beating someone of the dribble, find out how many shots Hoffarber has taken during the game.
When Minnesota is moving the ball in transition, Hoffarber can be found lurking at the three-point line eager to launch a missile.
When Minnesota is moving in its half court offense, Blake can be seen licking his chops waiting for his defender to briefly turn his head so he can get off a quick jumper.
The Gophers most recent 65-61 win against Northwestern is a good example of the Hoffarber effect.
Minnesota struggled to create separation against the Wildcats. Hoffarber was the difference in the game as he hit three long range bombs against Northwestern late in the second half to give the Gophers the lead and momentum to finish off the Wildcats.
Two of Hoffarber’s three pointers came in transition. The Gophers used their defense to create a fast break opportunities. As the Wildcats raced back to protect the basket, Hoffarber stopped at the arc and made them pay for forgetting about him.
Hoffarber hit his third three-point shot in the second half run by the Gophers in the half court offense. The Wildcats gambled on a steal. As the Wildcat defender came up empty handed, Hoffarber was zeroing in on the bottom of the net.
After Hoffarber’s heroics, Minnesota’s lead stood at 59-54, and they would never look back again.
Hoffarber’s work in the offseason is evident as he has extended his range on the court; his stamina has improved and he has improved the quickness of the release on his shot.
Hoffarber’s game is reminiscent of former Indiana guard, Steve Alford. Hoffarber is as good of a three-point shooter as there is in the country, and similar to Alford, he has the clean cut boy next door looks ala the Jonas Brothers.
Unlike Alford, Hoffarber does not have the luxury of running through two picks to give him a clean look at the basket. If Hoffarber continues to be the bell weather for the Gophers, Coach Tubby Smith might have to consider drawing up a few plays for his sharp shooter.
Gophers’ fans just hope that Minnesota just keeps moving the ball to give Hoffarber enough open looks at the basket to keep him scoring more than ten points a game.