Minnesota Preview Capsule
Last season: 15-17, lost to Rutgers in first round of Big Ten Tournament.
Nickname: Golden Gophers.
Coach: Richard Pitino.
Conference: Big Ten.
Who’s gone: Point guard Nate Mason (graduated), center Reggie Lynch (overseas), backup shooting guard Jamir Harris (transferred), backup forward Davonte Fitzgerald (transferred), backup forward Bakary Konate (graduated), backup forward Gaston Diedhiou (graduated).
Who’s back: Forward Jordan Murphy, who was named to the 20-player preseason All-Big Ten team, is the senior standout coming off career-best averages of 16.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. ... Starting forwards Amir Coffey (shoulder) and Eric Curry (knee) are healthy and primed for breakout years, after Coffey was limited to 18 games and Curry was out for the whole season. ... Point guard Isaiah Washington had a rocky freshman year, shooting just 24.1 percent from 3-point range. ... Shooting guard Dupree McBrayer gritted out an injury-influenced junior season, averaging 9.4 points per game. ... Forward Michael Hurt returns in a reserve role.
Who’s new: Shooting guard Brock Stull is a fifth-year graduate transfer from Milwaukee who was the second-leading scorer for the Panthers last season. ... The three incoming freshmen are all from Minnesota, shooting guard Gabe Kalscheur, forward Jarvis Omersa and center Daniel Oturu. The 6-foot-10 Oturu was a consensus four-star recruit who helped lead Cretin-Derham Hall High School to the Class 4A state championship. ... Center Matz Stockman, a 7-foot native of Norway who sat out last season after transferring from Louisville, played three years for the Cardinals. ... Point guard Marcus Carr is another transfer who played one year at Pittsburgh but the NCAA has yet to rule on whether he’ll be able to play immediately or have to redshirt this season.
The Skinny: Pitino’s sixth year with the Gophers begins with a fresh start after the injury-ruined 2017-18 season that also included a midseason suspension of Lynch for alleged sexual assault. Mason’s leadership and scoring touch at both the rim and from 3-point range will be dearly missed, with the erratic-but-exciting Washington in line to take over as the primary ball-handler. Curry and Oturu ought to help take some of the burden off Murphy around the basket. The Gophers could be one of the conference’s surprises like two seasons ago when they reached their only NCAA Tournament under Pitino.
Expectations: Oddsmakers have Minnesota as a 200-1 long shot to win the NCAA Tournament. The Final Four is at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, less than 2 miles from campus. The Gophers were picked to finish ninth out of 14 teams in a preseason Big Ten media poll.