We’ve talked about his already but there is a lot of hype surrounding Gopher Basketball as we enter into the 2017-2018 season. After the most B1G wins since the ’89-’90 season, last year, Pitino and his basketball team have caught the attention of national basketball talking heads. First, here is what ESPN had to say about the Gophers.
So, a couple of things…
This is a very “national writer” take. This guy never watched the Gophers play last year. He looked at the record and some background. He might have reached out to some local contacts or just read some local articles.
Here is how you can tell. First, this guy doesn’t know how big of a loss Eric Curry is. Losing Eric Curry for the season is one of the worst injuries the team could have suffered. Curry coming off the bench last year, as a Freshman, was a HUGE part of the Gophers’ success. Eric coming off the bench allowed for a lot more depth in the front court. It allowed Bakary Konate to slide keeping down the bench, reducing his minutes and making him more effective. Konate’s win shares were almost doubled last year, compared to 2015. In 2015, Bakary averaged 22 mpg. Last year, he averaged 10 mpg.
With Curry hurt, Konate will have to go back to a much more prominent role, especially if Lynch continues to have foul trouble all season. Last year, Curry and McBrayer (or Springs) were able to come off the bench and be just as, and sometimes more, effective than the starters. We are going to notice his absence early and often, I’m afraid.
ESPN is absolutely (kind of) correct in the advantage the Gophers have by returning all (kind of – Akeem Springs graduated after last season and started 15 games last year compared to McBrayer’s 21 games) of their starters from 2016-17. That will prove to be very helpful, especially early on as other teams are still getting used to each other.
He also makes a point to include Isaiah Washington as a big reason for success this season. That he will “bring swagger to Minnesota”. First, we have plenty of “swagger” in Minnesota. This is the best state in the country.
Also, Washington will be an important contributor in 2017-18 but he will be coming off the bench. He is unlikely to get to 20 mpg. More likely to make a bigger impact this season, that aren’t mentioned by ESPN, are Amir Coffey who was just awarded Preseason All-B1G next to Mason, Reggie Lynch who was last year’s B1G Defensive Player of the Year, and Dupree McBrayer who will be running the SG spot, next to Mason.
But hey, normally we are overlooked by most national outlets so I should probably be happy they didn’t just forget about us this season. It wouldn’t really matter though. I’ve been following this team VERY closely and I can tell you that they won’t be overlooked for long. This team is legit, and will be even more legit in years to come.
Other prominent preseason rankings include the USA Today Coaches Poll and Associated Press (AP) Top 25 Poll. The USA Today has the Gophers at #15 nationally, which I see as more realistic, given the lack of depth in the front court. The AP Poll is said to come out on November 1-2. The Gophers haven’t been ranked higher than #22 in that preseason poll since 1993.
The Gophers will start playing real life games, where we can actually judge them, in just 2 or 3 weeks. They also have exhibition games, that will be televised, even sooner than that. You can see (and print) a schedule below.
Other Gopher Basketball notes:
Anthony Nelson picks Seton Hall over Gophers and others. 1 scholarship remains for historical 2018 class:
— Anthony Nelson (@TheAntNelson_11) October 25, 2017
Gophers announce additional exhibition game with affordable tickets for hurricane relief:
— Minnesota MBB (@GopherMBB) October 24, 2017
2017-18 Schedule (click schedule to be redirected to printable page):