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NCAA Basketball: Joe Coleman Must Emerge As A Threat For The Gophers

Freshman Joe Coleman is likely going to play a large role in Minnesota's remaining Big 10 matches after a big game against Penn State.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are currently 2-4 in the Big 10, but those two wins have been in their most recent two games against ranked Indiana on the road and against a reeling but still dangerous Penn State squad. Their record has them firmly entrenched in 10th place overall in the conference, and their 14-5 overall record isn't going to impress as many people come season's end if they can't string together another couple of wins against the Big 10.

A big part of the reason that the Gophers lost their first four Big 10 games was a relative lack of offense. In those four losses they scored 72, 56, 62 and 66 points. The 72 isn't quite as impressive a number as it looks either, as it took them two overtimes against Illinois to get to that number; at the end of regulation time in that one they had only scored 64 followed by a complete lack of offense in the overtimes.

Enter freshman guard Joe Coleman. Coleman began the year taking ten or so minutes per game as a backup guard, putting together a mediocre but decent resume for the limited minutes he was receiving. Since Big 10 play began and the Gophers began to falter, Coleman's minutes have been rising, and his last three games have been starts. He has certainly made the most of it, having a huge game in the 80-66 win over Penn State with 23 points and 5 boards. The two games before, he put together games of 14 and 8 points.

The Gophers have started to score decent amounts of points again and Joe Coleman has helped quite a bit -- in the three games that he's started the Gophers have scored 66, 77 and 80 points. He's likely going to need to continue to help just as much as the season goes along if the Gophers want to improve their Big 10 resume and snag a decent spot in the NCAA Tournament. They next face a tough Northwestern team on Sunday, looking to make it three wins in a row.

For more on the Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.