It's early, and the young Minnesota Golden Gophers are off to a good start. They should be 2-0 at this point, and they are. But, watching them play, it's hard not to think about the future because this team is so young, and Richard Pitino has a talented class lined up for 2016-2017.
Minnesota really needs talent everywhere. That's not to say that there isn't talent on the roster, but it's underdeveloped. Pitino would probably prefer having an excess of young talent and promoting intense competition for minutes. Let's take a look at the backcourt and frontcourt units and see what talent is coming.
The guards are young this year, especially after losing two seniors. The Gophers need playmaking and shooting on the perimeter. Luckily, they'll get one of the top playmakers in the 2016-2017 class. Amir Coffey, of Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota, committed in late September.
Coffey has a great combination of size and skill. He's 6'7", but handles like a guard. Coffey will create opportunities for himself and others; he's smooth with the ball and can finish well around the rim. The only question mark could be the ACL injury that he has sustained his junior season, but he'll work his way back this year and should be ready for Minnesota in 2016-2017.
Aside from Coffey, Pitino doesn't have another incoming guard; however, he has three freshman guards this season. Therefore, the group will grow this season, and be elevated with the addition of Coffey next year.
This group probably needs the most influx of size and options. Michael Hurt and Eric Curry are two power forwards who've signed for next season. And, Pitino will get Davonte Fitzgerald and Reggie Lynch, both transferred and are sitting this season. Joey King is the only frontcourt senior on the roster, and heading into next year, it would appear that there will be a logjam at the four.
Fitzgerald, at 6'7" is mature having played two seasons at Texas A&M, and is probably more suited to slash from the wing (rather than post up), but he will elevate the overall athleticism of the group. He could really create mismatches on the wing. (Minnesota could go small inside and big on the perimeter next season. With Fitzgerald, Pitino will certainly have the assets.)
Reggie Lynch is a big body, who'll bang inside. He's more of a traditional big man, who can hit an outside shot. The Gophers could use his physicality this season, but he'll be there after sitting out. (For both Lynch and Fitzgerald, their contributions in practice should not be discounted. They'll help develop younger talent this year by just by practicing hard and sharing their experiences.)
Michael Hurt is a 6'7", 4-star recruit according to ESPN, but that varies depending on the source. Out of the gate, he doesn't project to bang inside, but he's skilled and can put the ball on the floor. He actually plays more like Joey King (Minnesota's outgoing senior), so it's possible he'll slot into the stretch four role, because he can shoot.
Eric Curry, another 6'8" power forward, from Little Rock, Arkansas, has signed his letter of intent to play at Minnesota next season. Curry is another big pick up, according to just about every source, and he is an exciting prospect. Curry's a long, fluid athlete, who moves exceptionally well without the ball. He should be the perfect compliment for Minnesota's slashing guards because his length and athleticism allows him to finish near the rim. He can also protect the rim a bit, and is so active on the glass that he'll help Minnesota immediately.
It's hard to pinpoint one area Minnesota needs to address because they have many opportunities. Some of those opportunities will be taken by current players who are young and developing. Pitino's recruiting class is top notch.
If there's a hole, and we always have to point it out, it's true size upfront. The frontcourt is struggling early this year, and they don't have true reinforcements coming. Minnesota will be more athletic and bigger next season, but not at the five, where they need it most.