2016-17 Season Preview: Minnesota Gophers

Going into last season, it was widely acknowledged that the only possible drama for Rutgers was whether it would be just awful, or historically awful (it was the latter). Minnesota's only goal seemed to be to do everything it good to not leave Rutgers alone in its infamy. The Gophers went so far as to actually lose to Rutgers—by 23!—in the final game of the regular season. Sure, Minnesota had only walk-on guards available to play (and only 3 of those). But it still took a lot of effort to look as bad as Minnesota did that night.

Richard was not pleased.

Speaking of Pitino, it's not hard to make the case that he's on the hot seat. His teams have won fewer games in every successive season. His players are getting into trouble, publicly, which is an especially bad look considering the revelation of the scandals that took place at Louisville while Pitino was an assistant there (and no, I do not give credence to the head-in-sand defense).

The good news is that help is on the way. The Gophers welcome top-50 wing Amir Coffey to the team. He'll play—and probably start—immediately. If he can perform, then the starting five doesn't look so bad. Jordan Murphy had a solid freshman season, and should improve dramatically as a sophomore. Nate Mason is one of the better point guards in the conference. Also joining the team is Illinois State transfer Reggie Lynch, who has put up quality numbers, but he's faced off-the-court questions as well. But there's no denying his talent—he may well be the best shotblocker in college basketball. Bakary Konate...can be tall and rebound.

OK, so there's still work to do. The good news, however, is the bar for improvement is quite low. Lynch's presence should instantly raise the floor on the defense to "mediocre," with some potential to be above average if Pitino utilizes his shotblocker well. Offensively, however, there are still significant concerns. This was the worst outside-shooting team in the Big Ten last year, and it lost Joey King, the only player that could plausibly be characterized as an outside threat. While the interior scoring might actually be sufficient, opponents need some reason not to put all 5 defenders in the paint. Even if Mason finds his shot again, at best that means replacing King's production, and Minnesota must do much more than that to actually improve enough to be a credible threat to play postseason basketball.

Overall, I expect a lot of ugly basketball in Minneapolis, given the subpar offense and defensive potential for this team. Expect more than a couple of games to be played in the 40s and 50s.