Big Ten is Sleeping on Pitino’s Revamped Gophers
On Monday, the same day that Marcus Carr was named to the Preseason All Big Ten Team, Both Gach was approved to play the 2020-21 college basketball season as a Minnesota Golden Gopher, after transferring from the University of Utah. He became the 2nd projected starter for Richard Pitino, who needed (and received) waiver approval from the NCAA, to be eligible for the upcoming season. Drake Transfer Center, Liam Robbins, was the other.
To be competitive in a stacked Big Ten, Richard Pitino needed both of these waivers to be approved. Now that they are, the Gophers might be one of the biggest sleeper teams in the entire country, entering a season that is scheduled to tip in just a couple of weeks (Nov. 25 vs Green Bay – Wisconsin).
|Team||To Win B1G (Oddsshark)|
|Illinois Fighting Illini||+400|
|Michigan State Spartans||+500|
|Ohio State Buckeyes||+600|
|Rutgers Scarlet Knights||+2000|
|Penn State Nittany Lions||+10000|
|Minnesota Golden Gophers||+10000|
The Gophers lost Daniel Oturu to the NBA Draft but their 2020-21 team should be much better, as a whole. The offensive changes will be most recognizable in the back-court, where you’ll see most of the offense generated. That’s a stark contrast to what we’ve seen built around Oturu over the last couple of seasons.
Oh… and the depth. Richard Pitino has legitimate depth this season and that’s not something he’s been able to say… ever. This team can go 10-deep if Eric Curry is healthy and able to contribute.
Projected Starting Lineup
1.) PG: Marcus Carr (Jr)
As mentioned previously, Carr was just named to the Preseason All Big Ten Team and he’ll be tasked with leading the Minnesota Gophers on an NCAA Tournament run. Marcus is one of the best point guards in the country and that should help the Gophers throughout the 2020-21 season… but especiallying during the dance (should they get there). That’s where the nation’s top point guards have historically dominated.
2.) Wing: Gabe Kalscheur (Jr)
Gabe’s shooting was very erratic in 2019 but it did improve toward the end of the season. Richard Pitino needs him to be more consistent in 2020. He was brought in to be a knock-down 3-pt specialist and, if he’s able to turn it around, will be the perfect compliment to Both Gach and Gabe Kalscheur on the perimeter. We know Kalscheur’s defense will be there, too.
3.) Wing: Both Gach (Jr)
Both’s transfer waiver being granted could be the difference in 2020. Gach is a local kid who can do a little bit of everything. His length and quickness on defense allow him to effectively cover all 5 positions on the court. Offensively, he’ll drop it from 3 if you give him room… but he really likes to take the ball to the house off the dribble.
4.) PF: Brandon Johnson (RS Sr)
Brandon Johnson is the unheralded transfer from Western Michigan, who Pitino was able to snag in the fall recruiting class. Johnson will be tasked with accumulating a lot of rebounds and playing solid defense. He can shoot it from mid-range and 3-point, if tempted, but that probably won’t be his role with the Gophers.
5.) C: Liam Robbins (Jr)
Robbins was listed as the best transfer on the market, who needed a waiver to be eligible (according to Jeff Goodman – Stadium.com). He’s a late-bloomer and that’s why he ended up at Drake for his first two seasons. However, his size, blocking ability and offensive skill-set have many projecting him into the NBA when his college career is over.
6.) Wing: Isaiah Ihnen (So)
Ihnen was Pitino’s only 4-star recruit in 2019 and he got his feet wet with some important minutes last season. His length, athleticism and shooting ability make you foam at the mouth. If he puts it all together, he’d be one of the best bench players in the Big Ten. He’s big enough to sneak in minutes at the 4, too.
7.) PG: Jamal Mashburn Jr. (Fr)
Mashburn Jr is the star freshman pickup for Richard Pitino. He’s the son of Jamal Mashburn, who played college basketball for his dad at Kentucky. Pitino thinks he’ll be the next face of this program. He can dribble, penetrate, shoot and especially distribute. Hopefully, he’s everything we’ve cracked him up to be. Jamal Jr will be a regular off the bench, where he’ll help keep Marcus Carr rested and healthy.
Brewster Academy (NH) guard and four-star #Gophers recruit Jamal Mashburn Jr. was among the nominees across the country this week for McDonald’s All-American Game selection @McDAAG @its_jaymashjr @GopherMBB pic.twitter.com/mbnx1zuAur— Marcus R. Fuller (@Marcus_R_Fuller) January 15, 2020
8.) Tre Williams (So)
Williams was thrust into some moments as a Freshman, that he probably wasn’t ready for. Still, he showed a good shot and plenty of potential. He’s a kid I expect to grow into a very productive role for Richard Pitino. Whether it’s in 2020-21, is yet to be seen. He’ll battle Ihnen for minutes off the bench, along with any other young wing players who might step up and surprise us.
9.) PF: Jarvis Omersa (Jr)
I’m interested in seeing if Omersa added anything to his game, going into 2020. Through his Sophomore season, we’ve seen the ultimate teammate who will give everything he can when on the floor. Unfortunately, his skillset so far has been very limited offensively. If nothing changes, he’ll provide great depth to a bench that can always use his energy.
10.) Eric Curry (RS Sr)
I really hope I am writing Eric Curry comeback story blogs throughout this season. Anyone following this team knows the difficult road Curry has taken to this moment. After a ridiculously promising freshman season, Curry hasn’t been able to stay healthy. For the limited games we did see him, he was a shell of his former self. Until we see differently, I’m not counting him as a contributor… but he’d be a nice bonus story and surprise for this team, if he can give something on the floor.
If you have some extra cash, I’d put it on the “over” for 2020 Gopher basketball wins, which is . Don’t throw it all down on the over, though. Save some so you can bet on Minnesota to win the Big Ten. Do I expect it to happen? No, but at +10000 they are by far the best value bet on the Big Ten ticket.
The Big Ten is stacked in Men’s basketball this season and some have even projected as many as 13 or 14 teams that make the dance. If Pitino’s team really is as good as I hope them to be, then we’ll know about it. This could be one of the most enjoyable Gopher basketball seasons in a long time. Hopefully COVID doesn’t ruin it.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan