The Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball team breezed over the Green Bay Phoenix on Wednesday evening at Williams arena, to open the 2020-21 season. The final score was 99-69. Marcus Carr established himself as the clear #1 guy with Oturu gone, dropping 35 points on 12/22 shooting with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He also set the Big Ten bar at point guard.
Look, the Green Bay Phoenix aren’t the competition to judge anyone’s play against but you don’t need elite defenders to see how special Marcus Carr is. It’s not like he’s new here, either. He’s proven he can take over any game vs any team, including last season when the then-Sophomore guard single-handedly took down #3 Ohio State with another 35-point performance.
If there’s one thing that has proven itself over the last 25 years of college basketball, it’s that great point guard play dominates, especially in the NCAA Tournament.
Big Ten Point Guards
The Big Ten is the deepest conference in college basketball. They’ll probably send 9 teams to the NCAA Tournament and it wouldn’t shock me if they send more. But none of the other teams in this ridiculously talented conference have a point guard like Marcus Carr.
The top-3 teams in the Big Ten are all relying on veteran point guards whose jobs are to take care of the basketball and feed the offensive studs. For #5 Iowa, that’s (Sr.) Jordan Bohannon, who didn’t average double-figures anything last year.
Illinois might have the two best players in the conference one is on the wing (Ayo Dosunmo) and the other is in the post (Kofi Cockburn). Trent Frazier (Sr.) had just 6 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in their first game of the season.
#7 Wisconsin has (Sr.) D’Mitrik Trice, who averaged 10 points last season on 39% shooting. #13 Michigan State lost Cassius Winston and replaced him with a (Jr.) white boy, Foster Loyer, who can shoot the lights out… but isn’t Cassius Winston or Marcus Carr.
Carr’s biggest competition might come from the other Big Ten team out of #25 Michigan, in 5’11” PG Mike Smith. Smith averaged 22.8 points, 4.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game in 2019-20. That’s an even more impressive stat-line than Carr’s 15.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. Smith will have to improve in all three areas if he’s going to outperform Carr in 2020-21, though.
Marcus Carr wants to play in the NBA and it almost happened after his Sophomore season. Carr was working out and had entered his name into the NBA Draft, until pulling out just before the deadline.
Because he was contemplating the draft, Carr arrived on campus after all of his teammates this offseason. But something was obviously different about Marcus when he did show up and both his coach and teammates took notice. Carr’s NBA aspirations had pushed him both physically and mentally during the offseason. He seemed primed for a takeover.
Jamal Mashburn Jr factor
The role that (Fr.) Jamal Mashburn Jr plays in this equation cannot be understated. Marcus Carr led the Big Ten last season in minutes per game, with 36.8. Often times, he looked exhausted out on the court but he was the only guy that Pitino could really trust. A tired Marcus Carr tends to make poor decisions too. Depth at point guard was a recurring problem all of 2019-2020.
Mashburn Jr is legit and he showed it vs Green Bay. Again, the Phoenix are the kind of competition we want to judge the Gophers against, but that doesn’t mean nothing can be taken from what we saw.
It’s not just Mashburn Jr. The Gophers, when healthy, have 10 guys who can play and 6 of them are on the wing (Carr, Gach, Kalscheur, Ihnen, Mashburn Jr, Williams). Four of them can comfortably bring the ball up the floor and all of them are legitimate offensive threats.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan