Maintaining success has never been more difficult in college basketball. The combination of the transfer portal and the NBA Draft makes each offseason both eventful and potentially transformative for most programs.
Now that the smoke has mostly cleared following the 2021-22 season, we’ll go team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess which programs are set up for success, and who might take a step back.
Next up is Minnesota. In his first season as head coach, Ben Johnson led the Gophers to a 13-17 mark overall and a 4-16 record in league play. Although he is in the midst of a rebuild in Minneapolis, Johnson did lead the Gophers to upset wins over Michigan and Rutgers, and his team was competitive most of the time.
- Payton Willis (15.9 PPG),
- E.J. Stephens (10.2 PPG),
- Luke Loewe (8.1 PPG),
- Eric Curry (7.7 PPG),
- Sean Sutherlin (7.2 PPG),
- Charlie Daniels (1.5 PPG),
- Abdoulaye Thiam (0.8 PPG),
- Danny Ogele (0.2 PPG)
- Jamison Battle, SF/PF (17.5 PPG),
- Treyton Thompson, C (1.9 PPG),
- Will Ramberg, G (0.4 PPG),
(Note: Forwards Isaiah Ihnen and Parker Fox will miss the 2022-23 season with a knee injury)
- Taurus Samuels, SG (9.4 PPG at Dartmouth),
- Dawson Garcia, PF (9.0 PPG at North Carolina),
- Ta’lon Cooper, PG (9.1 PPG at Morehead State)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Pharrel Payne, PF (No. 168),
- Jaden Henley, SF (No. 188)
- Joshua Ola-Joseph, PF (No. 219),
- Braeden Carrington, SG (No. 223)
RETURNING MINUTES: 20.9 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
The Gophers can put one of the more versatile frontcourts in the Big Ten on the floor. Garcia and Battle will be matchup nightmares with their three level scoring, while Thompson and Ihnen add more length and muscle at 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-9, respectively. Those four should make Minnesota formidable, and they add to that Cooper, who was No. 45 in the country with a 32 percent assist rate (5.9 per game). He should be able to break down defenses to set up Garcia and Battle. Overall, the roster has taken a step forward, while many rosters in the league have taken a step back.
WHY IT WON’T
While Johnson has some intriguing pieces to the puzzle, the Gophers lack depth and in some respects just replaced the production that left. Minnesota is really suspect at the two and three spots. On paper, Garcia is a much more talented player than what they’ve had in Minneapolis in a while, but he hasn’t lived up to his McDonald’s All-American status so far. Cooper wasn’t especially efficient at the mid-major level, he isn’t a good free-throw shooter, and he turns it over too much. As the only point guard on the roster, Minnesota will live and die with his transition to high major, and recent history says that’s not a safe bet.
As a Minnesota native, former IU recruiting target Garcia could help usher in a new era of success for a program with just one winning Big Ten season in the last 17. If he has a couple All-Big Ten caliber seasons and Johnson turns around the program, it could make Minneapolis a more intriguing place for area recruits who have by-and-large gone elsewhere recently. But if the Garcia era doesn’t go well, it could spell doom for both Johnson and the Gophers.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Middle of the pack / Bottom half
MORE BIG TEN OUTLOOKS:
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