Al Nolen’s Defense Desperately Needed for Gophers

Al Nolen

It is rare that a player affects a team on the defensive end of the floor as much as Al Nolen does for the Gophers.

In what seems to be an annual me-praise-Al event this time of year, in 2010 it seems more clear that his defense should be what’s applauded, rather than my claim last year around this time that he was “the key to the Gopher offense.”

I’d continue to make the claim that he is ONE OF the keys on the offensive end of the floor, especially considering how savvy he is with the ball and how little he turns the ball over.

But in the four games without him so far this season, the more important issue is how lost the Gophers look on the defensive end of the court.

The Gophers will continue to put up big offensive stats the rest of the non-conference season with or without Nolen, as Blake Hoffarber rains threes and the return of Devoe Joseph gives the Gophers a playmaker and sparkplug.

But consider these stats defensively when looking at the importance of Nolen to this team.

In the six games they were with Nolen, they gave up 67 points per game.  In the four games without him, they have given up 71.

That may not seem like a large difference, but consider this:  The Gophers first six games included four 2010 NCAA tournament teams and two of those opponents were ranked in the top 30 at the time they defeated them (#8 UNC, #27 West Virginia).

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