#86 Minnesota Men's Basketball 2013-2014 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers

2013-2014 Overall Rank: #86
Conference Rank: #9 Big Ten

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Apparently winning a game in the NCAA Tournament was not enough for Minnesota to keep Coach Tubby Smith. But the Golden Gophers did struggle in Big Ten play after a 15-1 start. The only loss in that run was against Duke and there were victories over Memphis, Florida State, USC, Michigan State and Illinois. Then the season pretty much fell apart with the occasional big win over teams like Wisconsin, Indiana and the aforementioned Bruins. All in all, it was pretty good. Yet, here we are anyway ushering in new coach Richard Pitino.

2012-13 Record: 21-13, 8-10
2012-13 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Richard Pitino
Coach Record: 0-0 at Minnesota, 18-14 overall

Who’s Out:
Three starters are gone and so is the first guard off of the bench and some of the depth in the frontcourt. Coach Pitino has some reloading to do and it is not going to be as easy as it is for his father. Forwards Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe were the heart of the Gophers 2012-2013 team. Williams averaged 10.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Mbakwe added 10.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Frontcourts do not get much more productive than that. Andre Ingram provided a few quality minutes here and there off of the bench and could at least hit the glass and play a bit of defense. Chris Halvorsen is the other departure in the frontcourt. On the perimeter Joe Coleman started 32 games and averaged 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds before opting to transfer to St. Mary’s. Julian Welch spent his senior season as the backup point guard. He was never going to score much, but he did do a good job taking care of the ball.

Who’s In:
Coach Pitino needs some new frontcourt players and he hopes Charles Buggs and Joey King can provide the answers. Buggs spent last season redshirting and has toughened up, but he is still a lanky 6-8 forward who can hit the glass and play some defense. King is awaiting a ruling from the NCAA following a transfer from Drake over the summer. In the backcourt Malik Smith, Deandre Mathieu and Daquein McNeil will battle for playing time. Smith played with Coach Pitino at Florida International where he averaged 14.1 points last season. The well-traveled shooting guard should be another solid scoring option on the Gophers perimeter. Mathiu, a junior college transfer, is expected to take over for Welch as the backup point guard. If he plays well, Mathiu could see more minutes than Welch and allow Coach Pitino to run a smaller lineup on the floor.

Who to Watch:
The offensive focus will clearly shift to the backcourt with the return of Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins. Andre led the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game and in three-point shooting, connecting on 41.8 percent of his attempts. He is also the point guard and dished out 3.4 assists per contest. The junior can do it all and is only getting better with experience. Austin is not a bad ball handler or scorer either. Austin is not as prolific or consistent of a shooter, but he is a great secondary scoring threat and a superb defender. Maverick Ahanmisi will again assume his shooter off the bench role, but minutes may be tougher to come by with the newcomers joining the fray.

Final Projection:
Minnesota will need to find production in the frontcourt. This is a team that absolutely dominated the glass and that will not be the case without Williams and Mbakwe. Elliott Eliason has a couple of relatively productive seasons under his belt and even started 13 games in 2012-2013. But now it is time for the 6-11, 260 pound junior to be more productive on offense and keep hitting the glass and swatting away shots. Maurice Walker has battled through some tough injuries and he never really got going last season, averaging just 1.8 points and 1.8 rebounds. If he can stay healthy, the expectations are still high that he can turn into a productive power forward. Oto Osenieks is another talent who has been stuck behind Williams and Mbakwe. The 6-8 Latvian has the ability to step outside and knock down the long ball, but he did shoot an atrocious 7.7 percent from beyond the arc last season. If Hollins and Hollins can get even better and the frontcourt finds at least one scoring threat, this will not be a bad team. However, this is not a group that is going 15-1 and make the NCAA Tournament either.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
Andre Hollins, Junior, Guard, 14.6 points per game
Austin Hollins, Senior, Guard, 10.7 points per game
Malik Smith, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Maurice Walker, Junior, Forward, 2.2 points per game
Elliott Eliason, Junior, Center, 2.2 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.7 (142nd in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 62.2 (61, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.3 (112, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.7 (44, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.4 (253, 7)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.7 (180, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.5 (206, 9)
Rebound Margin: 7.6 (8, 1)
Assists Per Game: 14.8 (43, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.7 (211, 12)

Madness 2014 NBA Draft Rankings:
#53 Andre Hollins
#65 Austin Hollins


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