Location: Minneapolis, MN
Nickname: Golden Gophers
Conference: Big Ten
Last Year’s Record: 22-11
Key Returners: Lawrence Westbrook (12.6 ppg), Damian Johnson (9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Top Newcomers: Royce White, Rodney Williams
Strengths: Coach Tubby Smith returns the bulk of his roster this season and that is especially important for the Gophers. The Gopher’s balanced attack kept their opponents guessing last year and with most of the roster, including the key guys, returning, this year should be the same. Only Lawrence Westbrook averaged double-figures for Minnesota last season while seven other guys averaged at least five points-per-game. Getting contributions from so many people will once again be the key to the Minnesota’s season.
Weakness: Minnesota had some ugly offensive numbers last season. The Gophers were second in the Big Ten in turnovers with 14.5 per game and they shot less than 33% from behind the arc. Those pedestrian numbers were the reason why they finished as a middling Big Ten team and were ousted in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Gophers will have to value the basketball and shoot the three better if they expect to finish near the top of the Big Ten.
Outlook: With the core of the roster returning and a couple of blue-chip recruits stepping on campus, Minnesota should be a team to reckon with this season. Tubby Smith has this program going strong and a return trip to the Big Dance should be in the cards for the Gophers.