After reaching the Final Four of the NIT last year, Dan Monson may not have a very easy time getting his team to be competitive in the Big Ten.
The Gophers lost a ton of talent in the offseason and they are going to have rebuild before they can assert themselves again. Rick Rickert opted to go to the NBA, and the Gophers need to make up for his loss in the scoring and rebounding department. Point guard Kevin Burleson and power forward Jerry Holman are also former Gophers.
Minnesota still has some talent that it can depend on to have a successful season.
Senior forward Michael Bauer has good all-around skills and is coming off a season in which he averaged 11.4 ppg and 4.9 rpg. Swingman Maurice Hargrow can handle the ball in the backcourt and can also defend strong wing players. Hargrow averaged 13.2 ppg and can carry a team when he gets hot.
The X-factor for Minnesota is freshman forward Kris Humphries. The McDonald's All-American committed to Minnesota before asking to be released from his letter of intent. He ultimately decided to come back and he figures to be an impact player right away.
Monson is also hoping to get a lift from former North Carolina guard Adam Boone. He sat out last year, but he should be able to handle the starting point guard slot.
Monson, like Michigan State's Tom Izzo, is a strong believer in fundamentals. If the Gophers get off to a slow start, don't be shocked if this team steps up in the second half of the season.
STRENGTHS: The Gophers have always been among the more explosive teams in the Big Ten. When they get it going — usually at home — they can score a ton of points in a short period of time and do it without sacrificing defense. The Gophers should have a very quick team this year as they will go three guards much of the time.
WEAKNESSES: Minnesota lost its best player when Rick Rickert opted to leave early. The Gophers will have to find their identity and it may not be easy since they lost a lot of key veterans. They have talent, but how long will it take for the team to mesh?
LAST YEAR: 19-14 overall; 8-8 (tie for 6th place) in the Big Ten.
HEAD COACH: Dan Monson (career 119-74); 5th year at Minnesota (67-57).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We lost a lot of skilled players who could shoot the ball very well, so we are going to need some people to step up and knock down some shots." — Minnesota head coach Dan Monson
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING THE NEWCOMERS: Kris Humphries has significant size and strength at 6-8 and 240, and should get a chance to start and be an impact player. Adam Boone transferred from North Carolina, and Dan Monson is hoping he can handle the point guard responsibilities. Freshman Wesley Washington has tremendous athleticism and could help out at guard.
KEY EARLY-SEASON GAMES: The Gophers will take part in the preseason NIT, but don't expect to see this team at its best early in the season. There are just too many new players to expect the team to mesh in the early going. The Gophers also face Bob Knight and Texas Tech before the Big Ten season starts.
MAJOR RIVALRY: The Gophers always want to get the best of Iowa and Wisconsin, its two border rivals.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP: Point guard Adam Boone, guard Maurice Hargrow, center Jeff Hagen, forward Michael Bauer, forward Kris Humphries
INJURY IMPACT: The Gophers appear to be healthy as the season begins.
MBB: Rebuilding or stockpiled youth?
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