(AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was composed prior to Saturday afternoon’s open scrimmage where a mic’d up Coach Pitino apparently chastised the team for putting the arena to sleep. This doesn’t really change much, except adding an additional sense of dread.)
Welcome to B1G Basketball 2016! Ahead of season’s tip-off on November 11, we are setting out to preview all 14 teams in the Big Ten, along with a few other bells and whistles along the way. It’ll be a team a day, hopefully in reverse order of finish from 2015-16. The internet being generally broken on Friday meant that Minnesota was pushed back to today, with Illinois hopefully to follow this afternoon.
Rutgers is done, which means we get to move on to Minnesota. You’ll notice that the restraints in your chair have made escape quite impossible, so let’s get talking about the Gophers.
2015-16: 8-23 (2-16), Kenpom #192
Coach: Richard Pitino (3rd Year)
Departures: Joey King (F, graduated); Carlos Morris (G, kicked off the team); Kevin Dorsey (G, left to pursue film career); Charles Buggs (F, ran off)
Additions: FR Amir Coffey (G, 4*), FR Eric Curry (F, 4*), F Michael Hurt (F, 3*), RS JR Reggie Lynch (C), grad transfer Akeem Springs (G)
Expected Starters: G Nate Mason, G Dupree McBrayer, G Amir Coffey, F Jordan Murphy, C Reggie Lynch
The Gophers have St. John’s, Arkansas, Florida State, and Vanderbilt in the non-conference, then a bunch of dreck. The Gophers have an ugly B1G slate with Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin twice. The Gophers also have Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, and Rutgers away with Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, at home.
This could be another ugly year, but the Gophers could be more fun to watch. Coffey, Curry, and Hurt are all very talented players and will have some impact on the season. Reggie Lynch adds some much-needed size in the middle, but he also decided to bring some baggage in his transfer season. Additionally, Akeem Springs will be counted on to add some experience to a rather young team. Jordan Murphy was the best player on the team last year and should continue to improve and flourish if the new additions play as well as advertised.
Getting through the non-conference schedule with a record no worse than 10-3 is imperative, because that B1G slate is very ugly. Getting more than 3 wins in the matchups with the teams we play twice seems like it could be miraculous, and the (clearly pessimistic) best-case scenario has the Gophers winning 7 games.
The OTE writers are projecting more of the same, with only WSR breaking the 6 B1G wins mark, and the average coming out to a neat 4-14 in conference play.