Tubby Time has not accelerated the success of the Minnesota Gophers’ basketball program like originally anticipated. Last year was supposed to be the breakout out year but two highly regarded newcomers never saw a minute on the court while the team’s starting point guard was ineligible for most of conference play. With a loaded Big Ten this season, I cannot imagine this being the year Minnesota makes a jump in the conference.
By: David Kay
Minnesota Golden Gophers (6th, 9-9 in Big Ten, 21-14 overall)
Projected Depth Chart
C: Ralph Sampson III (Jr)/Mo Walker (Fr)
PF: Colton Iverson (Jr)/Trevoe Mbakwe (Jr)/Elliott Eliason (Fr)/Oto Osenieks (Fr)
G/F: Blake Hoffarber (Sr)/Rodney Williams (So)
SG: Devoe Joseph (Jr)/Austin Hollins (Fr)/Chip Armelin (Fr)
PG: Al Nolen (Sr)/Maverick Ahanmisi (Fr)
Gone: SF-Damien Johnson, G-Lawrence Westbrook, SG-Devron Bostick, F-Paul Carter (transfer-UIC), PG-Justin Cobbs (transfer-California), PF-Royce White (transfer-Iowa State)
After fighting through the adversity of last season with big-time recruit Royce White and JUCO transfer Trevor Mbakwe never seeing the floor, and starting point guard Al Nolen being ruled academically ineligible for most of Big Ten play, Minnesota seems to have their murky situation settled down.
Mbakwe has been cleared to play and will add some depth up-front to the twin tower combination of Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson. Freshmen Maurice Walker, Elliott Eliason, and Oto Oseniekes bring even more size to the frontcourt.
Nolen will return from his suspension to once again run the show. Devoe Joseph is a solid defender and scorer while Blake Hoffarbur can light it up from deep. Rodney Williams is loaded with potential and could be a difference maker off the bench. Freshman Austin Hollins is the son of Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach Lionel Hollins and should find his way onto the floor.
Tubby Smith has implored a very deep bench since coming to the Gophers due to their full-court pressure defense. Only six players return from last year’s team and while Mbakwe figures to step in immediately and contribute, time will only tell how the six freshmen can acclimate themselves into Tubby’s rotation and help Minnesota’s chances of earning a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Player to Watch: Rodney Williams, SF
Most NBA draft experts think Williams is a future lottery pick. When you look at his production last season (11.9 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg) that might be hard to believe. So either Tubby missed out by playing him or Williams was just not ready to be a major factor last season. I learn towards the latter. Williams should see an expanded role this season but may once again be relegated to bench duty with experienced wing players Devoe Joseph and Blake Hoffarber still in the fold. If Williams can let his talent shine through, it will be hard for Tubby to keep him on the bench as he could be the x-factor to Minnesota’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/18 vs. Western Kentucky (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/19 vs. North Carolina/Hofstra (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/21 vs. West Virginia/Davidson/Vanderbilt/Nebraska (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/29 vs. Virginia (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
12/8 at St. Joseph’s
Other 99 in 99’s:
#51 New Mexico
#55 Southern Mississippi
#56 St. Mary’s
#57 Texas A&M
#59 Arizona State
#60 Northern Iowa
#64 Texas Tech
#65 Miami, FL
#68 Ole Miss
#69 George Mason
#71 Weber State
#74 Central Florida
#75 Wake Forest
#76 Georgia Tech
#78 Oklahoma State
#82 South Carolina
#86 Penn State
#87 South Florida
#89 Boston College
#93 Oregon State
#97. Iowa State