2013-14 College Basketball Season Preview: Minnesota

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Minnesota Golden Gophers (Last Year: 18-13, 8-10 in Big Ten)

2013-14 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 (Soph)

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)

2013-14 Outlook:
Good bye, Tubby Smith. Hello, Richard Pitino. The Minnesota Golden Gophers made a needed coaching change this offseason 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.

Like most of last season, the guard duo of Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins will shoulder the load for Minnesota this year. Andre and Austin were the team’s top two scorers last season and are the only returning players who averaged more than 3.5 points per game in 2012. Andre has all the tools to be a star point guard at the college level, while the Golden Gophers 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. Smith 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 each see his 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 I 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.

The Golden Gophers add 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, but must sit out this season unless the NCAA grants him a waiver to play right away. That remains a possibility and would be a huge plus for a team lacking skill in the frontcourt.

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 Gopherss figure to be nothing more than a middle of pack Big Ten team, at best.

Player to Watch: Andre Hollins, PG
Hollins played some of his best ball last year against high-level competition; 41 vs. Memphis, 22 vs. Michigan State, 25 at Indiana, 20 and 21 vs. Wisconsin, 28 vs. UCLA, and 25 vs. Florida. With so many question marks in the frontcourt, Hollins will need more regular performances like the 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)

  • Predicted Big Ten Finish: 9th

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