Spring Preview

https://spartanbreakdown.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/spring-big-ten-preview-11-minnesota-pt-i/

https://spartanbreakdown.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/spring-big-ten-preview-11-minnesota-pt-ii/

WHAT’S CHANGED?

Lots, at least at the margins. Big man recruit Jonathan Nwankwo was released from his commitment after it was determined he’d have issues getting admitted into school (he ended up at VCU).

In what sort of amounted to a trade, Minnesota picked up former VCU commit Jordan Murphy, a 6’7″ forward from Texas who was released from his commitment there when Shaka Smart took the Texas job.

Minnesota also added Texas A&M transfer forward Davonte Fitzgerald, who won’t be eligible until next season. He put up decent but hardly spectacular numbers in College Station but may be a guy who can earn a rotation spot down the line.

BOTTOM LINE

Things don’t look very different to me from the way they did in the spring. This is not a team without talent but it’s difficult to see them putting a strong season together in a deep conference like the Big Ten. Pitino’s recruiting doesn’t get talked about very much but he’s actually done a decent job. I think Mason was a really nice addition last season who surprised almost everybody with how good he was, and Morris proved to be a capable guy out of the JUCO ranks. The incoming class is probably the best one he’s had yet. Dorsey seems capable of playing a large role immediately and I can see guys like McBrayer and Johnson earning consistent rotation minutes as well. The problem is that I think Minnesota went backward inside, with Walker gone and young and mostly unproven big men left in his wake, for this season at least. In a league where we all of a sudden have a good number of big kids who can score, I think the Gophers may find themselves outmatched at times in the paint. I also think that Pitino’s pressure defense has, not surprisingly, failed to pay dividends in this conference. You cannot win in the Big Ten if you’re going to give up 44/36% shooting and that’s what they did last season, in large part fueled by the way that helter skelter defense puts them in odd man situations so often, leading to a lot of open looks for opponents.

I think they have enough weapons to spring an upset or two along the way, but it’s difficult to see this team coming close to .500. I said I thought 6 wins or so looked about right in the spring, before seeing the schedule. Now that I’ve seen it, I’ve dropped them to 5, tied with PSU for 12th. The only way that doesn’t come to pass is if the young big kids took a major step forward and if the defense overall tightens up considerably.