Well, we’re here.
Notice how I didn’t use an exclamation point there? I mean, I’m excited for a new season, but it’s also kind of a, “well, let’s get this over with” type of feeling right now. The future is more exciting than the present, currently. It’s going to be a weird season full of smoke, mirrors, development, fouls, turnovers, lots of Carlos Morris shots, tons of freshmen and a whole lot of big, powerful native Africans who may or may not know exactly what they’re doing. In short, it’s going to be equal parts frustrating, compelling and mostly entertaining. Such is the 2015-16 season, which is pretty much devoid of any substantial expectations. Welcome!
The Gophers kick things off with the UMKC Kangaroos — perhaps the most frightening mascot in all of D-I basketball. They represent the WAC, which is basically the conference of misfit teams at this point. Seriously, that conference houses UT-Rio Grande Valley. That’s a real team now.
Amelia thinks the Kangaroos have a chance to compete for the WAC title this year, though I’m not quite as confident. And, either way, there is no reason the Gophers, as raw as they are, should fall to UMKC and still be allowed to have their B1G affiliation. The ‘Roos have one player of note – Martezz Harrison. He’s fine. He’ll be their only scorer.
The bigger story is the Gophers players themselves. So here are a few things we’re watching for as we kick off the new season.
What will Bakary Konate do?
This is kind of a loaded question, because it’s two-fold. In one sense, I mean, what will he do now that he’s healthy and back on his feet. The guy had to take a month off because he had a stress fracture in his foot. Kind of a frightening injury for a 6′ 11″ giant. So, he’ll be shaking off rust regardless because he hasn’t seen game action since Spain. In the other sense, I mean what will he do this year in general? He’s literally the only center on the team, and the guy couldn’t get out of his own way, foul-wise, last year, averaging a foul every 5.6 minutes. By comparison, Nate Mason nabbed a foul once every 15 minutes. So, for a position where we have no depth, it’s concerning that the only guy available may be on the bench with foul trouble quite frequently. So, Konate’s development is super high on my list of things to watch.
Who will the standout freshmen be?
The Gophers have four true freshmen on the team, and at least three of them are expected to contribute right away with major minutes. The question is, who will take the reins? Kevin Dorsey is a clear favorite, as he’s the most talented guy of the group, at least on paper. However, the chalk isn’t always correct, especially in college basketball. Dupree McBrayer has been solid throughout the preseason, and Jordan Murphy actually co-led the team in points in the two exhibition games. He’s being asked to do more with Konate being hurt and/or on the bench with a million fouls.
Is Carlos Morris going to be a leader or a chucker?
Perhaps the most frustrating player on the team last year, Squirrel has the ability to be a game-changer, both good and bad. If he’s getting to the hole and finishing near the basket, he’s almost unstoppable. If he’s pulling up to try to nail a three-pointer in transition, he’s basically unwatchable. I’d love to seem him take to the leadership role this year and set an example for thoughtful offensive decisions. He’s had elements of both sides of that this year already, though, so I’m feeling a little pessimistic.
- Bakary Konate is expected to start after being unavailable for the past month.
- Kevin Dorsey is expected to be available after being suspended for the final exhibition game due to being late too often.
- Pitino is banning all players from Twitter for the season, which is what he implemented during the year last year when stupid fans were yelling at college students on social media for losing games.