As noted in this blog a couple of weeks ago, we decided this team was the one prominent team we had missed in created our first 136 All-Time Great teams based on our criteria.
1. We tried to make sure we had at least one team from as many great programs as possible, and the Gophers are ranked as the 14th best program of all time - so were the only of the top 29 programs in Jay Bilas ESPN book that we overlooked.
2. We also tried to pick great all-time teams by looking at teams that went deep in the tournament, and we missed the Minnesota 1977 squad because they were on probation. They went 24-3 including winning at eventual champ Marquette, whose coach Al McGuire said after the NCAA title game that Minnesota was actually possibly the best team in the country. The AP ranked them 13th, perhaps penalizing since they were on probation, but their SRS calculation is the 5th best in the country.
3. We also tried to include as many of the top players of all-time as possible. Four Gophers from this team made the NBA, and Kevin McHale is the headliner as an inductee to the Hall of Fame. Since McHale was a freshman, the actual star of the team was Mychal Thompson who was the No. 1 NBA pick.
A previous blog laid out the complicated process for creating player cards for new teams from during the www.kenpom.com era. The cards are much more difficult from pre 2002, so while not trying to spell it out here we will lay out some of the basic differences.
The further back we go the more stats are missing. From 1977 there was no 3-point shot, steals and turnovers were not recorded, and blocks were not either except the team apparently recorded blocked shots for McHale.
To fill some holes with estimates, we pull NBA stats (far right in red) to get estimates on how strong a future NBA players likely was on different aspects of the game.
However, we have a final step that guarantees the overall team will be as strong offensively and defensively as they were.
In our directions on creating 21st Century teams we note you can calculate the dunk range and the adjustment to opposing dunk range based on the opponents AdjO and AdjD. However, when calculating a 20th century team like the Minnesota 1977 squad, you must use this google sheet calculator.
We first calculate based on the teams SRS and national ranking for scoring and allowing points, and Minnesota 1977 had the equivalent of a 1.10 AdjO and a very strong - perhaps best in the country, 0.88 AdjD. Those numbers are entered on the top line in blue.
You then need to go down the columns of the starting five to note key offensive and defensive counts on their cards (do the dunk range last after all other numbers are calculated).
You start with an average "dunks" red line of "3" because the average dunk range is 51-53. After entering the starters info under Die 1 through 8 on the top the result of Minnesota's cards would be a 1.07 if you kept the 51-53 average range. You want the red numbers in row 21 to come within .01 of the blue number right above them by changing this dunk range in row 30. When we change them all to "4" then the red number is 1.09 - within .01 so every Gopher will have a 51-54 dunk range.
The numbers in row 38-40 are likewise entered, with the line 41 Adj opp dunk range starting at 0. When the defensive steals, blocks and defensive rebounds are typed in the defensive number in row 21 was 0.97, way too high for the 0.88 estimated AdjD of the team that year. We lower the numbers in row 41 until we get within 0.01 of the 0.88 blue, and find that once the five numbers are changed to -3 the numbers line up perfectly.
With that, we add the dunk range and adjusted dunk range, which is the final factor that balances all eras, whether or not 3-pointers were used, how fast the pace was and if the shooting percentages were good relative to their time etc. Welcome to the Value Add Basketball Game to the 1977 Minnesota Gophers. You can click on the game to play them for free.