2021 Minnesota Preview

Key Departures: Marcus Carr (–>Texas); Gabe Kalscheur (–>Iowa St); Liam Robbins (–>Vandy); Both Gach (–>Utah); Brandon Johnson (–>Depaul); Jamal Mashburn Jr (–>New Mexico); Tre Williams (–>Oregon St)

New In Town: Luke Loewe (<–William & Mary); E.J. Stephens (<–Lafayette); Jamison Battle (<–G. Washington) Sean Sutherlin (<–New Hampshire); Payton Willis (<–Colgate); Charlie Daniels (<–SF Austin); Parker Fox (JUCO); Danny Ogele (<–Navy); Abdoulaye Thiam (JUCO); Treyton Thompson (#178)

State of the Program:

                  Minnesota is a complete dumpster fire right now, to put it lightly. Richard Pitino had opportunity after opportunity to build and maintain success here and failed to do so, as his 8 year stint came to a crashing conclusion last season after losing 8 of 9 to end the year. That was after reaching as high as 16 in the rankings after beating the likes of Iowa, Ohio St, Michigan and Purdue. The Gophers completely collapsed, and with it came the collapse of the program as virtually everyone from a year ago has exited. New coach Ben Johnson has an almost impossible task ahead of him, as he welcomes 10 new players into the program. He begins his first stint as a head coach after playing for the Gophers and spending the last decade+ as an assistant coach at N. Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Xavier. At this point if you’re still reading this you’re either a Minnesota fan, in which case I’m very sorry, or incredibly bored. I will quickly summarize the outlook for those barely hanging on, and it is as follows; your favorite team will dread playing the Gophers, only because a loss would be a disaster and a stain on the resume and a win will do absolutely nothing for you. The Gophers will be lucky to win 1 game in the Big Ten this season. Remember when Tim Miles left Nebraska in flames and Fred Hoiberg took the reins? He has won 5 total Big Ten games in his 2 seasons there, and he’s coached in the NBA. I can definitively say Coach Johnson faces an even tougher challenge having zero HC experience. Now, if you’re still with me, I’m going to painstakingly breakdown all 10 incoming players, all to surmise that they struggle to win 1 conference game. God bless your obsession to Minnesota hoops if you indulge in the exercise.

What’s New:

                  Kicking it off is 6’4” G Luke Loewe (SR) out of William & Mary. Luke was a 2x All-D and 1x All-CAA selection that averaged 16/3/3 a season ago. He’s a 3 level scorer that uses his craftiness to get to his spots despite his lack of athleticism. That will be more difficult in the Big Ten but the Gophers will undoubtedly need him to be a playmaker. 6’7” wing Jamison Battle (SO) is a southpaw who was also an All-Conference selection a season ago out of the A-10. He is likewise not the quickest, but can get to his spots and shoots well from deep and in the mid-range. Next up 6’3” G EJ Stephens (SR) out of Lafayette, who enters the program coming off an All-Conference selection of his own in the Patriot League. He put up 16 ppg and plays a similar game as Loewe, as he can create his own shot and was the main playmaker for his team a year ago. Sean Sutherlin (SR) is a 6’5” G out of New Hampshire that will represent a nice juxtaposition in the backcourt to the previous 2 guys as he’s a bouncy athlete that excels attacking the basket downhill. He plays a tough and physical brand of basketball, and he averaged 9+ rpg his last season. Payton Willis (SR) returns to Minnesota after transferring to Colgate, and he’ll assume his previous role as a perimeter shooter after shooting 40% a season ago. His experience at major level programs likely allows him to assume a starting role in the backcourt. 6’9” PF Charlie Daniels (SR) will be battling for minutes on the interior. He didn’t ever establish a major role and I don’t anticipate it happening here either, but he will be important for depth inside. Parker Fox (JR) is a 6’8” F that was a NABC DII All-American, for whatever that’s worth, and enters as a prime candidate to get big minutes at the 4/5. He dominated at that level mostly due to the fact he was simply bigger/faster/stronger than many of his opponents, which will no longer be the case, but his high energy high effort style will make him an exciting watch for Gopher fans. Abdoulaye Thiam (FR) is a 6’3” G emerging out of the JUCO ranks who will be looking to use his athleticism to earn playing time in this crowded, but up for grabs backcourt. Danny Ogele (SR) is a 6’7” F out of Navy who like Daniels never really was a standout but is a big body that will compete hard for minutes and provide necessary depth in the frontcourt. Last but not least the 1 true Freshman, 6’11” C Treyton Thompson (#178).  Thompson is a lanky big who can stretch out and shoot from 3 and uses his length to block shots inside. He will need to fill out as he develops, but should become a nice 4 year player for the program.

Prediction: 14th Big Ten (NR)

                  Predicting how the rotation will shake out feels similar to playing darts blindfolded after being spun around in circles. I will say, regardless of who gets more minutes than whom, the outlook feels much the same. The Gophers will not, under any circumstance, be a factor in the Conference beyond the conversation of being a trap game for x contender. Hopefully, for the programs sake, this will just be a bump in the road. But something about a total program exodus followed by the hiring of someone with zero head coaching experience has me a bit pessimistic about the future for the Gophers.

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