It is never good to lose a starting forward and best defense player, but if it had to happen, now is not the worst time. Johnson’s injury is coming early in the season, and if his recovery stays on schedule, he could be back as early as the Colorado State road game. He would miss games against Georgia State and Bowling Green, which should could be challenging in his absence but still very winnable, and he would be back for the Virginia and Louisville games, by far the two toughest challenges on the non-conference schedule.
Johnson’s style of play also lends itself to a quick return with not too many last affects. Johnson’s main asset is his length and his speed. Unless the reports of broken hand mean his hand broke off, he will still have his length, and since he will still be able to just about everything other than handle a ball with his non-shooting hand, he should remain in game shape. If Johnson was a shooter who would need time to get his rhythm back, his injury would be more problematic, but hand injuries just don’t hurt runners and jumpers as much as shooters.
Finally, this could all be a blessing in disguise. Johnson is a known quantity. Tubby Smith knows what to do with him, where to play him, and when. There are five new players who, while certainly not mysteries, still need to be vetted (it is still election season). Johnson’s injury will give the coaching staff more time to evaluate players. Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson will get significant minutes together. Paul Carter will get a chance to see how he stacks up as an interior player. Jonathan Williams will get one last chance to prove himself.
If the Gophers get through the first part of the season without Johnson, and win every game, which they should do, they will be a much better team because of it. If, God forbid, his injury costs the team a game, it will be a very different story.