The Golden Gophers have a crowded, experienced back-court. This is undoubtedly a good thing, especially considering Richard Pitino has promised up-tempo basketball with lots of pressing and trapping. Sprinting up and down the court for 40 minutes and occasionally longer gets tiring. If players get breaks they are less tired. If the Gophers have more players than the other team, they’ll be less tired, which will hopefully lead to more wins, more trophies, and more fame and fortune for Coach Pitino, eventually.

Having lots of guards is not enough though. They need to be put in a position to succeed. This gets complicated with a back court rotation of seven players, only one  of whom has played a second of basketball for Pitino. Complicating matters even more, as Zips will point out later on, is that most high school teams have more players taller than 6’5” than the Gophers do.  To save the front court players from the same exhausting style of play, Pitino will have little choice to play lots and lots of guards. The three guard or even four guard line-up (if Joey King doesn’t get a waiver), or even five guard line-up  (if there is foul trouble) was confirmed in a tweet blitz today.




Nothing quite like a 6’4″ power forward who has never started a college  game, right?

This will definitely be a new look for our unfortunately gopher-sized Golden Gophers. To simplify the new back-court rotation, I divided the players into different roles, and based on their roles, created a depth-chart.

It is important to remember that this chart depicts a player’s primary role when on the court, and should not be seen as a statement regarding certain skills or an indictment for their lack of skill in another area. Obviously Andre Hollins can shoot the ball. Obviously Maverick Ahanmisi can handle the ball (though not always well).

  Shooters Ball-handlers Quasi-Forwards
First string Malik Smith Andre Hollins Austin Hollins
Second String Maverick Ahanmisi Dre Mathieu Wally Ellenson
Third String                   Daquein McNeil  

Coach Pitino should, if he is smart (and we think he is), have at least one player from each role on the court at a time, especially considering the lack of versatility of each back-court player. Andre Hollins can easily slide into a shooter role as can Austin Hollins. Daquein McNeil, at least in this stage of his career, is the classic negative stereotype of a combo-guard. He can’t dribble well enough to be a point guard or shoot well enough to be a shooting guard, but he can sort of do both.  Austin Hollins and Wally Ellenson will play more traditional back-court roles as long as the Gophers’ true forward, Charles Buggs, Oto Osenieks, and Joey King can stay on the court. The ball has been taken out of Maverick Ahanmisi’s hands, except when shooting, and we think he can be a very good shooter.

Unlike Tubby Smith, Richard Pitino seems to realize that style of play has to match the personnel, and the only way for the Gophers to dictate the flow of the game is to go small and go fast.  Marquette and Villinova have found success with super small line-ups in the last few years. We find out in a month if it will work for the Gophers.