All posts by zipsofakron

A decent outside shot.

5 burning questions heading into the season

A new season means excitement, anticipation and, most of all, uncertainly. Richard Pitino builds on a successful inaugural season as Minnesota’s head coach, with plenty of weapons to help extend the momentum an NIT championship. Things appear to be on the upswing, but with the notable loss of Austin Hollins, a Jekyll and Hyde routine from Elliott Eliason last year, and a ton of new faces on the roster, things are anything but settled.

To get us thinking about the upcoming season, we put together five burning questions that have yet to be answered.

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A collective look at the 2015 class

I’ll admit, I’m still getting used to the ruthless efficiency Richard Pitino is showing in all things basketball. It’s actually incredibly disorienting to have someone in charge who’s not only resourceful, but also great at what they do. Like, no one before him thought to turn the Bierman Complex basketball court into a makeshift practice facility?

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A look at the 2014-15 Gopher newcomers

Richard Pitino has brought a lot of attrition to the program, which, for a new coach, isn’t entirely surprising. But the amount of roster turnover during that past two seasons has been particularly hard to follow, with plenty of new recruits, transfers and other various reasons for players to come and go.

A year ago we said goodbye to some seniors and welcomed a bevy of new faces. Next year will be the same, and with several new faces recently announced, it’s a perfect time to get to know the new guys. In fact, if you count Zach Lofton as a recruit, the Gophers have six commitments, five of whom could conceivably get playing time next year. Talk about turnover.

At this point, the playing time and redshirt situation is anyone’s guess, but we DO know who will be here when things get started in November.

The 2014 Recruits

Josh Martin, PF, Bothell (WA) High School
Twitter: @JoshMartin_206

JOSHMARTINGet ready for Hulk. Martin, a 6’9″, 230-pound power forward, is a true character from the Seattle area, and the most likely of the incoming freshman to impact the team next year, if nothing else because the Gophers are so thin at the position. Martin chose the Gophers over Pitt and Florida State, and brings a highlight reel of dunks to the table. In fact, the dude actually broke a backboard this season from throwing it down so hard. Rumor is he’s actually still growing and is approaching 6’10”.


The Video:

Gaston Diedhiou, PF, Canarias (Spain) Basketball Academy
Twitter: @big6as

gaston2Say it a few times .. Gaston Diedhiou. Pronounced Gas-TONE Dee-EYE-doo. He comes to the Gophers as a fairly under-the-radar recruit and is definitely a project, albeit one with nice upside. Originally from Senegal, Diedhiou is similarly sized to Martin (6’9″, 225-ish), but isn’t quite as polished. Per TheGopherReport, which has a nice write-up about him:

Diedhiou has a good size frame backed up by his athleticism. In the limited video of his game I was able to track down it appears he has the ability to run the floor as well as defend the low post and hedge the pick and roll.”

Canarias has produced a lot of good D-I talent over the years, so the risk is a calculated one for Pitino. Also check out Late Night Hoops’ write-up about him for additional background.

The Video:

Bakary Konate, C, Sunrise (Kansas) Christian Academy

1076325Noticing a trend with recruits here? Pitino is going big, and rightfully so. Konate is another presence down low, originally from Mali, giving the Gophers another African connection in frontcourt. And at 6’11”, 220 pounds, Konate has plenty of frame to add size. If nothing else, it gives us a chance to develop some good nicknames when Konate and Diedhiou man the posts together in the future.

Konate chose the Gophers over Texas A&M, Creighton and Tulane and actually had interest from Louisville back when Pitino was an assistant. He has a noted ability to defend the rim (duh) and run the floor, which fits well with the system Pitino likes to run. According to The Gopher Report, he has decent shot for a big man, but has room to improve on offense. You can pronounce his name like this: Bah-CAR-ay Ko-Naw-Tay.

Nate Mason, G, Montrose (MD) Christian High School
Twitter: @NateMason_2

469887Mason was a fall commit and brings a combo guard presence that could earn him significant playing time right out of the gate. At 5’11, he’s considered a scoring guard in a point guard’s body, but it’s certainly too early to tell how he’ll be used in Pitino’s system. The Daily Gopher has a nice profile on Mason, as does Late Night Hoops.


The Video:

Carlos Morris, G, Chipola (FL) Junior College
Twitter: @CarlosMorris_11

ll30cmbqq7i6y4ig“Squirrel” Morris brings another fun nickname and an additional guard presence to the Gophers. Originally a pretty nice prospect set to go to South Carolina, he didn’t have qualifying test scores and opted to go the JUCO route. The Gophers outdid Seton Hall and UAB to get his services.

As a JUCO transfer, he’ll have two years of eligibility and should have enough experience to contribute right away. He’s known as a scorer and a defender, so would be a natural fit to fill at least some of the initial void left by Austin Hollins. At 6’6″ he brings some good length. Check out The Daily Gopher’s write up for some good background.

The Video:

2014 Transfers

Zach Lofton, G, Illinois State
Twitter: @ZachLofton

loftonLofton has taken a long road to get to the Gophers. Originally a local prep standout at Columbia Heights, he went the JUCO route initially before ending up at Illinois State. He’s always wanted to be a Gopher, which is great to hear, so having him amped to be in town and fulfill his dream of contributing to the program is a fun story.

At 6’4″, Lofton brings an immediate impact to the Gophers from a shooting perspective and is a dynamic presence on offence. Per Marcus in his story on Lofton: “[He]┬áhas deep shooting range, can beat his defender off the dribble and is an athletic finisher in transition.” At Illinois State last season he averaged 11.3 points per game.

Lofton will likely have to sit a year, per NCAA transfer rules, but should be ready to contribute for two years starting in 2015.


Let’s wrap the 2013-14 season

I guess I’ll start at the end. The Gophers are the 2014 NIT champions. The best of the second-best. The champion of the bubble teams. Conquerors of the consolation. All that. While it might not sound all that impressive only a year after being ranked as high as #8 in the nation and getting into the second round of the NCAA Tournament, think of the context. Exactly one year ago we were little more than a week into the Richard Pitino era. The son of…

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Gophers find themselves in another NIT championship

In a game that felt like it would never end, and with a clown car of announcers and color commentators talking about anything other than the game in front of them, the Gophers overcame a back-breaking end of regulation to rebound and take care of Florida State in OT in the NIT semifinals, 67-64. With the game well in hand heading into the final 10 seconds of regulation, Malik Smith, perhaps the team’s best free throw shooter, clanked two attempts, resulting in utter panic and…

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Why I’m stoked about an NIT Final Four run

It’s been a weird season so far for the Gophers. Uncertain expectations before the season, followed by initial excitement, followed by actual excitement, followed by February frustration, followed by hope, followed by disappointment, and finally followed by rejuvenation and inspiration. Inspiration? Let me back up a second. Many pundits before the season picked the Gophers to finish dead last in the Big Ten. Like, behind Northwestern and Penn State. For a team that’s enjoyed success (at least by our standards) for the past few years,…

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Gophers overcome slow start to down St. Mary’s

To say the first seven minutes of Minnesota’s 2nd round NIT tilt against the St. Mary’s Gaels was ugly would be a huge understatement. “Atrocious” is probably about halfway there, and so is “hideous.” Is there even a word for racking up six turnovers and spotting your opponent a 14-0 lead before even coming close to scoring? Indeed, the Gophers gave the Gaels a two-touchdown lead to begin the game, looking like they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) score. Committing interesting turnovers, putting up shots…

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Gophers trip up High Point in NIT opener

It wasn’t the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but on snowy night at Williams Arena in mid-March, postseason basketball was on full display. In front of a sparse home crowd that was either missing because of weather, spring break or general lack of interest, the Gophers leveraged a career night from Maverick Ahanmisi and big games from Mo Walker and Joey King to stave off the High Point Panthers 88-81 and move into the second round of the NIT. The NIT isn’t an altogether…

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After B1G Tournament split, Gophers play the waiting game

In hindsight, Minnesota’s Big Ten Tournament performance is about what we’d expect. They beat a pretty terrible Penn State team and lost to a pretty good Wisconsin team (though, I guess it was more of a beatdown, but I digress). What does that mean? Basically the status quo. The Gophers didn’t really improve their tournament resume, but they did nothing to discount it either. Instead, the team must now play the waiting game, which means hoping that other teams on the bubble somehow discredit themselves…

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Gophers save tournament hopes in season finale

The narrative all season, at least during conference play, was that the Gophers were a Jekyll and Hyde. They could play with the best in the conference but also had a frightening tendency to play down to teams they were clearly superior than. Naturally, with the Penn State Nittany Lions coming to town for the season finale with postseason implications hanging in the balance, there was a nervous air surrounding the game, as it was unclear which Minnesota team would actually show up. Bucking that…

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