#13 Minnesota Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #13
Conference Rank: #2 Big Ten
Minnesota reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Coach Richard Pitino last year. The Golden Gophers were upset by Middle Tennessee in the first round, but it was a nice step towards bigger and better things. Point guard Nate Mason will lead the way this year. The 6-2 senior led the team with 15.2 points and 5.0 assists. He will be the new leader and the floor and a potential Big Ten Player of the Year candidate after earning First-Team accolades in 2016-2017.
2016-17 Record: 24-10, 11-7
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Richard Pitino
Coach Record: 75-61 at Minnesota, 93-75 overall
Who’s Out:
Akeem Springs was the team’s most prolific outside shooter, connecting on 67 three-pointers. He only started 14 games and was fifth on the team in scoring with 9.5 points per game, but Springs was a very good leader on the floor. He played solid defense and provided toughness to the backcourt. The only other departure is Ahmad Gilbert, who saw just 75 total minutes of action last season.
Who’s In:
The Gophers have five new players who will help make this one of the deepest teams in the Big Ten. Davonte Fitzgerald will finally suit up this year. He missed last year with an injury and the prior year as a transfer. The 6-8 forward spent two seasons at Texas A&M and averaged 3.5 points and 1.6 rebounds with the Aggies as a sophomore back in 2014-2015. The other newcomers are in the backcourt. Isaiah Washington is the most highly regarded and the 6-1 guard will look to contribute in a very crowded backcourt. Hunt Conroy, Jamir Harris and Jarvis Johnson will likely need some time before they can crack the regular rotation.
Who to Watch:
Dupree McBrayer and Amir Coffey will join Mason in the starting backcourt. McBrayer is a dynamic scorer who can consistently connect on three-pointers and use his 6-5 frame to finish around the basket. Coffey is another big, tough guard who can do it all. He averaged 12.2 points per game as a freshman and is ready for an even bigger season as a sophomore. The backcourt obviously has a lot of talent, but the frontcourt does not lack in talent either. Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch are both coming off very good seasons. Murphy, a 6-6 junior, averaged 11.3 points and a team high 8.8 rebounds. Murphy can block some shots, but it is Lynch that dominates at that end of the floor. He averaged 3.5 blocks on top of his 8.4 point and 6.1 rebounds.
Final Projection:
This could be a big year for Minnesota. They can seriously compete for a Big Ten title. The recruiting has picked up under Coach Pitino and that began to show last year. The increased depth will help this year as Minnesota looks to make a deeper NCAA Tournament run. The Golden Gophers snuck up on a lot of people last year and that will not be the case anymore. They have to stay at the top of their game if they want to finish towards the top of the Big Ten. This group can do it though.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Nate Mason, Senior, Guard, 15.2 points per game
Dupree McBrayer, Junior, Guard, 11.1 points per game
Amir Coffey, Sophomore, Guard, 12.2 points per game
Jordan Murphy, Junior, Forward, 11.3 points per game
Reggie Lynch, Senior, Center, 8.4 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.2 (120th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.4 (104, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.5 (229, 11)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.0 (16, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.1 (289, 12)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.2 (216, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.1 (138, 6)
Rebound Margin: 0.9 (153, 9)
Assists Per Game: 14.9 (81, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.6 (48, 4)
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#58 Isaiah Washington