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Sunday, November 6, 2011

2011-12 BIG Basketball Preview: Minnesota

Trevor Mbakwe is the best rebounder in the BIG and
quite possibly the country. His skills around the basket
will keep Minnesota in hunt for a NCAA bid.
Head Coach: Tubby Smith – 80-53 (.602)
Lost:  SG Blake Hoffarber, G Al Nolen, C Colton Iverson (transfer)
Returning: F Trevor Mbakwe (Sr), C Ralph Sampson III (Sr), F Rodney Williams (Jr), PG Chip Armelin (So), PG Austin Hollins (So), G Maverick Ahanimisi (So), PF Maurice Walker (So), F Oto Osenieks
New faces:  SG Joe Coleman(121), SG Andre Hollins(110), PG Julian Welch(transfer)

Preview: Last season’s team was a tale of two halves.  The team started off 11-1 including neutral court wins over North Carolina and West Virginia. Then the wheels came off. Devoe Joseph, disgruntled with his role in the offense, unexpectedly quit and decided to transfer. Starting PG Al Nolen broke his foot in January and didn’t return in time to finish the season. After a five game winning streak in January, the Gophers finished 1-10 down the stretch to eliminate themselves from NCAA consideration. What a rough end for Hoffarber, maybe the best pure shooter in Minnesota history.  So what should expectations be for Tubby’s team in 2011-12?  The Gophers are going to continue to be a force in the paint with the Mbakwe (the nation’s premiere offensive rebounder) and Ralph Sampson III.  Where the team will be hurting is along the perimeter.  There’s not a single player on this team who should scare opponents from 3-point range.  Rodney Williams, despite NBA buzz due to his ridiculous athletic ability, will need to finally become a decent basketball player and someone out of Chip Armelin, Julian Welch, and Austin Hollins will need to improve by leaps and bounds in all areas of their game in order for this team to be more than middle of the pack. The biggest question, fair or not, is if the Gophers have another disappointing season will Tubby Smith be willing to stick around and attempt to right the ship or will he head off for greener pastures?
Shot in the dark at the starting 5:
G Austin Hollins
G Andre Hollins
SF Rodney Williams
PF Trevor Mbakwe
C Ralph Sampson III
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