2012-2013 Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball Preview
2011 Record: 23-15 (6-12 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Tubby Smith, sixth season (103-64 at Minnesota) (491-209 overall)
Projected Returning Starters: 4
Notes: Believe it or not, Coach Tubby Smith has never had a losing overall record over his college coaching career. Smith was known for him numerous years in the SEC (2 years at Georgia and 10 years at Kentucky), but he also coached at Tulsa. Expectations were high at Kentucky, and Smith and developed the moniker of "Ten Loss Tubby". Maybe Kentucky fans didn’t appreciate the work Coach Smith did, but Minnesota fans certainly have. In eight seasons under then-Coach Dan Monson, the Gophers made the NCAA Tournament only once, while the Gophers have been to the Big Dance twice in five seasons. The past two seasons have been rough, though, as the Gophers have failed to make the NCAA Tournament – they did end up as NIT runners up in the 2011-2012 season.
BVTSB Take: Minnesota lost F Trevor Mbakwe early in the season last year. The loss created a void in the lineup, one that the Gophers were never really able to overcome. The one time Marquette transfer will be back with a sixth year of eligibility and should provide a much needed scoring boost. He averaged 13.9 points a game in the 2010-2011 season, also averaging 10.5 rebounds per game. F Rodney Williams also returns, who averaged 12.2 points per game and 5.6 rebounds last season. Fellow starters G Joe Coleman (5.8 points per game), C Elliott Eliason, G Austin Hollins (9.2 points per game and 81.5% free throw shooting), and G Andre Hollins (8.7 points per game, 37.9% three point shooting, and 90.4% free throw shooting) are also projected to return. Minnesota largely had underclassmen starting last season. The experience of a tough season combined with the leadership and health of Mbakwe should certainly boost the win total, especially in Big Ten play. Expect the Gophers to start three forwards, with Coleman likely coming off the bench. The Gophers do lose Ralph Sampson III to graduation, but his production largely dropped last year (7.9 points per game, down from 10.2 in 2010-2011). Smith adds PF Charles Buggs and SG Wally Ellenson. Minnesota will participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis, playing three games against the likes of Duke, Louisville, Memphis, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Stanford, and VCU. They will travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which certainly will be tough. They also have winnable games against American, Richmond, South Dakota State, at USC, and North Dakota State. Minnesota was 12-1 in non-conference last year, but the schedule was pretty weak. Don’t expect the Gophers to match that in 2012-2013, but they won’t need to with the tougher slate. 8-9 wins isn’t out of the question though. Do expect an improvement in conference though, .500 or better is very manageable.
2012-2013 Early Projection: 18 regular season wins
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