This is kind of weird doing this because I really dislike the Gophers, but they have a lot of talent going forward. They are one of my teams on the rise for next year, and I think they have a chance at being top 3 in Big Ten next year.
The only projected loss is Ralph Sampson III. He may be tall, but he never became the player he was supposed to be and floats around the perimeter too much. Not too major of a loss.
Let's look at the projected starters. Andre Hollins is going to be a star. He was only a Fr. this year, but he was their best player at the end of the year. in their final 4 games he avergaed nearly 20 ppg against some good teams in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Northwestern. He's a deadly shooter from deep, he's smart, he can get to the rim and also shoots 90% from the line. I was talking to JNixon about him and he said he plays like Jacob Pullen, and that's good enough for me.
Austin Hollins had a pretty solid So. campaign and he also looked very good at the end of the year. His season averages were 9 3 and 2 and shot 38% from deep. He ended the season averaging 11.5 4 and 2.5 over his last 6 games while shooting 50% from the field and 57% from deep. He's a do it all guy.
Julian Welch should get the starting nod over Joe Coleman. He averaged 10 2.5 and 3 while shooting 48 % from the field, 44% from 3pt and 83% at the line. He will be the only Sr. in the backcourt and will a veteran leader.
Rodney Williams was highly touted coming into college but his first two years were a major disappointment. But this year when Mbakwe went down Williams moved from the wing to the post and improved greatly. He went from 7 and 3.5 last year to 11 and 6 this year while shooting almost 10% higher from the field and doubling his bpg to 1.5. He's still an insane athlete and will be a tough matchup for wings and post players alike next year.
Elliott Eliason is who I would start at center. He's tall, has a decent frame and is a great glue guy. He's a guy who dives for loose balls, tries his best on defense and is a good rebounder. As a Fr. this year he averaged about 4 rpg in under 15 mpg. In games where he played more then 20 minutes he averaged 6.8 rpg. He needs to watch the fouling, but he's a nice guy to have on your team and will provide plenty of second chance opportunities.
The bench will consist of multiple guys who contributed this year. Joe Coleman was a Fr. this year and averaged 5 3 and 1. He's solid and started the last ten games or so. Maverick Ahanmisi, Oto Osenieks and Chip Armelin all averaged over 10 mpg as well. Armelin is very athletic, Osenieks is 6'8 220 and has the ability to stretch the floor and Ahanmisi is a capable backup. Andre Ingram is 6'7 and although he doesn't play much he provides some good defense and will be a Sr.
Fellow Fr. Kendal Shell and Chris Halvorsen may or may not add depth and value next season. The Gophers also have two 3 star recruits coming in next year in Wally Ellenson and Charles Buggs. I don't know much about them but Ellenson is a 6'4 190 lb SG and Buggs is a 6'8 190 lb PF. Any production from these four will make the Gophers even more dangerous.
Looks like a pretty deep and talented team going forward, however, there is still a chance that Trevor Mbakwe is granted a 6th year of eligibility and is allowed to come back. With him, they would have an excellent starting lineup of both Hollins, Welch, Williams and Mbakwe. Mbakwe and Williams would be tough to defend down low and the other three are all fantastic shooters. Whether Mbakwe returns or not, I think the Gophers will definitely be on of the best teams in the Nation next season, probably around the Top 20.