#117 Minnesota Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #117
Conference Rank: #11 Big Ten

Minnesota Team Page#117 Minnesota Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Minnesota Basketball Tickets

In just two seasons with Minnesota, head coach Richard Pitino has already felt the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. In his first season, he took his Golden Gophers club all the way to the NIT finals (and won). He was heralded and called the next great college basketball coach. However, 2014-15 wasn’t as kind to the younger Pitino. A borderline top 25 team at the seasons start, Minnesota was supposed to be a real competitor in the Big Ten all year long. However, they never quite gelled like the 2013-14 team did, and the ended with a modest 18-15 overall record (but a 6-12 mark in the Big Ten). For many, this mark was far too low for a team with so much talent. Unfortunately for Pitino, it’s not going to get any easier in 2015-16. He lost a couple key seniors to graduation, and is going to have to rely on a lot of new faces to carry the load.

2014-15 Record: 18-15, 6-12
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Richard Pitino
Coach Record: 43-28 at Minnesota, 61-42 overall

Who’s Out:
Minnesota was not a deep team last season. Only six players played over 15 minutes per game; with only one (Andre Hollins) playing over 30. Therefore, losing three of those six players to graduation isn’t exactly a reason to celebrate. It gets worse, however, when you find out that one of the players leaving was the “jack of all trades” from last year, Andre Hollins. A three year starter for the fiery Gophers, Hollins was the definition of a warrior. He wasn’t always the most talented guy on the floor, but he believed he was. That didn’t mean he played selfishly or our out of control, no, but it meant that when time was winding off the clock, you better believe he wanted the ball in his hands. A terrific outside shooter (41.2% last season) and capable slasher (2.7 free throw attempts per game last season), there really wasn’t a real weakness in Hollins’ game. Guys like those are hard to find at this level, and replacing him isn’t going to be an easy task for Pitino and his crew.

The second player graduating is Maurice Walker. Walker had an interesting three year career with Minnesota. In his first two seasons, he was mainly deployed as a muscle guy off the bench. He used his excellent size (6-10, 250 pounds) to get inside, and get easy baskets. However, in his third season, something changed. He started to develop more of an all-around game. He added a jumper, played solid defense, and saw a career high 24.2 minutes per game because of it. The problem with Walker, however, is that he could never stay on the floor. He averaged over five fouls per 40 minutes last season, the second time in his three year career that this was the case. If he could have kept the fouls lower and the minutes higher, he could have been a 15-10 type player at least. The final player graduating is DeAndre Mathieu. It was a tough season for Mathieu; no doubt about it. He was a huge reason the Gophers were able to take the NIT crown in 2013-14, and was expected to do much of the same (12 ppg, 4.2 apg, 51.1% FGP) in 2014-15. However, somebody forgot to tell incoming freshman Nate Mason. Mason ended up splitting time with Mathieu at the point; and Mathieu’s stats dropped considerably (8.6 ppg, 4.3 apg, 45.8% FGP). Still, he was in over 28 minutes per game, was one of the better ball handlers on the team, and was also a force to be reckoned with on defense (1.9 spg). To summarize, the Gophers are losing three high quality players that could be relied on in clutch moments; something that’s going to be scarce on next year’s team.

Who’s In:
After striking gold in the high school market last year with stud freshman Nate Mason, Pitino decided to return to the gem pot again this offseason. He did grab a couple of transfers (Davante Fitzgerald and Reggie Lynch) but both of those players are going to have to sit out the 2015-16 due to NCAA transfer rules. That leaves his five talented incoming freshmen. Four of them are ranked (Kevin Dorsey, Ahmad Gilbert, Dupree McBrayer, Jordan Murphy), while the last (Stephon Sharp) is unranked. Sharp, a four year starter at Hopkins High School, is, well, a sharp-shooter. When left open, Sharp showed he could hit threes consistently out to the 24-26 foot mark. He also showcased his quick release often, getting off shots that would be blocked normally. His slashing is above average, but could become an unstoppable force if he worked on it just a little more. Overall, Sharp is much better than his ranking would suggest and he should see some time off the bench next year. The first of the ranked crew is three star wing Jordan Murphy from San Antonio, Texas. You know the saying “everything is bigger in Texas?” This absolutely applies with Murphy. Murphy is a big, tall wing that could easily play power forward if he put on a few pounds (190). However, the lack of weight didn’t stop him from spending a lot of time inside during his high school years. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to help him at the D-1 level. He’s a force to be reckoned with in the open floor, but isn’t a good enough shooter or slasher to really make a difference in set plays, at least not yet.

The third recruit is Dupree McBrayer from Springfield Gardens, New York. Dupree, although a bit undersized (6-3, 175 pounds), makes up for it with a high basketball IQ and the ability to downright score the rock. He can shoot the lights out from downtown, but also showcased nice skill from the midrange by the end of last year as well. He, like Murphy, should see time next year off the bench. The second to last recruit is three star wing Ahmad Gilbert from Philadelphia. Gilbert is a jack of all trades, to put it simply. He can shoot, defend and shoot from the midrange with consistency. He isn’t a freak athlete like 4 star incomer Kevin Dorsey, but he’s a reliable player that should see plenty of time off the bench. The final recruit is four star point guard Kevin Dorsey from Fairfax, Virginia. Dorsey, although he’s around the same rank as Nate Mason was last season, is a much different player then Mason at the point. Mason is poised, smart, and reliable. Dorsey is reliable, but plays with much more of an edge then the rising sophomore. He loves to constantly be in attack mode, whether that’s from behind the arc or in the lane. He’s not a big point guard (6-0, 170 pounds), but he’s strong enough and fast enough to really do some damage in the open floor. He will be a very valuable asset off the bench for Pitino. Overall, there is lots of talent in this class.

Who to Watch:
Losing three of the six 20 minute guys from last season is hard, obviously, but remember: three of them are coming back. The three that are returning (Joey King, Carlos Morris, Nate Mason) aren’t half bad either. Going into last season a lot of things were uncertain about Minnesota’s future. People knew they had their shooting guard (Dre Hollins), coach (Pitino) and point guard (DeAndre Mathieu) but that was about it. Turns out, however, that they were only correct about two of those things. Mathieu still saw the most minutes at point (28.4 mpg) but he nearly split time with unknown freshman Nate Mason (26.1 mpg). Mason was simply excellent in his first season, posting 9.8 ppg, 2.8 apg, and 1.8 spg while simultaneously shooting 41% from the field and better than 38% from downtown. Impressive numbers, to say the least. He also sported a 2.54 assist-turnover ratio and absolutely loved the big moments. This year, with a freshman as his biggest competition for playing time, he should have an even better season; if he can stay healthy. Carlos Morris, a second year senior out of Florida, is the only double digit scorer (11.1 ppg) from last year’s team returning. A JUCO transfer, many were unsure how Morris’s game would translate over to the D-1 level. He put those doubts to sleep very early on. He only played 25.6 minutes per game, but was extremely productive in that time. He was a solid outside shooter (35.6%) but did the majority of his damage in the lane (2.9 free throw attempts per game) and from the midrange (45.2% FGP). He was also an above average perimeter defender (1.8 spg) who usually guarded the opposing team’s best wing. Mason may be the best player on next year’s team, but Morris should lead them in scoring. The final notable returner is senior forward Joey King. A forgotten piece to last year’s team, King actually brings quite a lot to the table. A stretch four in every aspect of the word, King shot a dazzling 41% from downtown last season. Unfortunately, the praise just about stops there. He was a decent defender at best, rarely did anything useful inside, and shot only a decent percentage from the field (46.5%) as a big man. A guy as big (6-9) and strong (235 pounds) as King should definitely be more of a presence inside, especially with Walker leaving.

Final Projection:
The Big Ten is not any easy conference; everybody knows that. For the past decade, it has been one of the three best (along with Big 12, ACC) conferences in the world. Minnesota is going to be a good team in 2015-16. Nate Mason is a growing stud, Joey King and Carlos Morris are capable scorers and some of these freshmen have a lot of potential. Unfortunately, potential isn’t good enough in a conference like the Big Ten. They’ll improve on last year’s mark, but they simply don’t have enough talent or depth to make a run for the top spot.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Nate Mason, Sophomore, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Carlos Morris, Senior, Guard, 11.1 points per game
Ahmad Gilbert, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Charles Buggs, Junior, Forward, 3.6 points per game
Joey King, Senior, Forward, 9.7 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 74.2 (32nd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.7 (202, 13)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.3 (52, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.6 (209, 12)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.4 (67, 5)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.1 (41, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.2 (243, 12)
Rebound Margin: -2.5 (280, 13)
Assists Per Game: 15.7 (16, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.1 (134, 9)

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#115 Kevin Dorsey
#148 Jordan Murphy
#154 Dupree McBrayer


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