#59 Minnesota Golden Gophers: College Basketball 111 in 111

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richard pitino minnesota

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season.  We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

Good bye, Tubby Smith.  Hello, Richard Pitino.  The Minnesota Golden Gophers made a needed coaching change this off-season and now enter a new era.  It will take Pitino some time to make his mark on the program though as Minnesota will struggle in the Big Ten this year due to a ton of uncertainty at frontcourt (to be honest, I totally over-ranked them.)

MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
Last Season: T-7th, 8-10 in Big Ten, 18-13 overall
Predicted Big Ten finish: 9th

Projected Depth Chart
C: Elliott Eliason (Jr) or Mo Walker (Jr)
PF: Oto Osenieks (Jr)/Charles Buggs (Fr)
G/F: Austin Hollins (Jr)/Wally Ellenson (So)
SG: Malik Smith (Sr)/Daquein McNeil (Fr)
PG: Andre Hollins (Jr)/Maverick Ahanmisi (Sr)/Dre Mathieau (Jr)

Gone: PF-Trevor Mbakwe, F-Rodney Williams, PF-Andre Ingram, SG-Julian Welch, SG-Joe Coleman (transfer-St. Mary’s)

2013-2014 Outlook:
Like they did most of last season, the guard duo of Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins will shoulder the load for Minnesota this season.  Andre and Austin were the team’s top two scorers last season and are the only returning players to average more than 3.5 points per game a year ago.  Andre has all the tools to be a star point guard at the college level while the Gophs need more consistency from Austin since he was extremely streaky during his sophomore campaign.

Minnesota lost Joe Coleman to transfer but added Malik Smith who played for Pitino at Florida International.  He is a more than capable scorer especially from beyond the three-point line but I question how he will handle the transition to making a major move up in competition.  Maverick Ahanmisi brings experience but not much else to the backcourt so expect junior college transfer Dre Mathieau and freshman Daquein McNeil to see their fair share of minutes right away.  Wally Ellenson battled injury early during his freshman campaign but is a crazy athlete who could factor into the equation on the wing.

The losses of Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams create a massive hole in the middle.  Elliot Eliason, Mo Walker, and Oto Osenieks were used in reserve roles last season but will be thrust into bigger minutes this year.  Quite frankly, Eliason and Osenieks should consider themselves lucky to be playing at a high Division One school since they are pretty worthless on the court.  Walker could be poised for a breakout season since he has worked extremely hard this summer to shed some weight and improve his conditioning.  Redshirt freshman Charles Buggs is the only other frontcourt option for Pitino.

Minnesota adds some needed talent and versatility to the frontcourt next season with the addition of Drake transfer Joey King.  He was named to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman Team last year and has applied for a waiver to play immediately which would be a huge boost for a team lacking frontcourt talent.  If the waiver is denied, King must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers have advanced to the Sweet 16 just once since 1991 so building a long lasting successful program is no easy task in the Twin Cities.  Pitino will try to turn that around but it won’t happen overnight as the Gophs figure to be nothing more than a middle of pack Big Ten team at best.

Player to Watch: Andre Hollins
Hollins played some of his best ball against high level competition; 41 vs. Memphis, 22 vs. Michigan State, 25 at Indiana, 20 and 21 vs. Wisconsin, 28 vs. UCLA, 25 vs. Florida.  With so many question marks in the frontcourt, Hollins will need more regular performances like above if the Gophers are going to have any chance of even sniffing a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/8 vs. Lehigh
11/16 at Richmond
11/25 vs. Syracuse (Maui Invitational)
11/26 vs. Arkansas/California (Maui Invitational)
11/27 vs. Gonzaga/Dayton/Baylor/Chaminade (Maui Invitational)
12/3 vs. Florida State (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)

OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#60 Florida Gulf Coast
#61 Akron
#62 Temple
#63 Alabama
#64 Florida State
#65 Arkansas
#66 N.C. State
#67 Kansas State
#68 Davidson
#69 Dayton
#70 Miami FL
#71 SMU
#72 Texas A&M
#73 Long Beach State
#74 UMass
#75 Northwestern
#76 Indiana State
#77 Georgia Tech
#78 Oklahoma
#79 Richmond
#80 Manhattan
#81 Belmont
#82 Texas
#83 Houston
#84 Washington State
#85 Iona
#86 Oregon State
#87 Louisiana Tech
#88 Towson
#89 Wake Forest
#90 Central Florida
#91 Rutgers
#92 Drexel
#93 USC
#94 Charleston
#95 Seton Hall
#96 Vanderbilt
#97 George Mason
#98 Clemson
#99 Penn State
#100 Nebraska
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#104 DePaul
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#107 TCU
#108 Virginia Tech
#109 Georgia
#110 Utah
#111 Auburn

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

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