Jan 26, 2013; Madison, WI, USA; Minnesota Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe (32) grabs a rebound as Wisconsin Badgers forward Jared Berggren (40) defends at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 45-44. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Gopher men's basketball: Mbakwe's efficiency key to tournament success

Mar 2, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe (32) hugs head coach Tubby Smith after getting pulled from the game in the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Williams Arena. The Gophers won 73-44. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off of his Big Ten Player of the Week performance, Minnesota Gopher senior Trevor Mbakwe has stepped up his game in the final stretch of the regular season.

Mbakwe, the sixth-year senior, has become Minnesota’s most effective player on the court and is revitalizing the Gophers season just in time for the NCAA Tournament.

The Player of the Week honor was the first of the season for Mbakwe and the second of his career.  He posted 34 points and 25 rebounds in Minnesota’s two wins last week.

Mbakwe has recorded double-doubles in three of the Gophers past six contests and now has 10 double-doubles on the season.

Mbakwe’s efficiency this season has won him fans after coming back from multiple knee injuries in his collegiate career.

Currently, Mbakwe ranks fourth in the Big Ten Conference in terms of player efficiency rating at 26.0, a statistic that takes into account every game performance.  He only trails Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke.

The size and motor that Mbakwe has played with presents a challenge to every post player in the conference.  It has helped Minnesota rejuvenate late in the regular season with the NCAA Tournament just two weeks away.

Although he only stands 6-feet-8, Mbakwe plays big for his size.  His muscular build and his surprising quickness cause headaches for opposing coaches and players.

It has allowed the Mbakwe to average 10 points and 8.8 rebounds this year.

Mbakwe is also shooting the best percentage on the roster at 58 percent, but on the other end, he’s playing good defense.   Minnesota’s opponents this season are shooting less than 43 percent from within the three-point line.

Aside from his scoring and defense, his rebounding rates is astounding.  He is on pace to lead the Big Ten in rebounding for the second time of his career, a statistical measure that no Big Ten player has done in the 21st century.

Mbakwe ranks in at No. 9 in the nation in terms of individual offensive rebounding percentage and anchors the nation’s top offensive rebounding team in Minnesota. The Gophers are one of only two Big Ten teams in the top 25 in offensive rebounding with 44.8 percent.

In Minnesota’s last two games, the team out rebounded its opponents by an average of 17 on the offensive glass.

As Minnesota transitions to the postseason, Mbakwe will continue to be an X-factor on both ends of the court.

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