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How Has the Young Backcourt Looked for the Minnesota Golden Gophers?

Through the first two games, how has Minnesota's young backcourt played? We'll take a look at the rotation, and how things are starting to take shape in that unit.

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At this point, there's not much difference between Minnesota's young backcourt, and just its backcourt. Carlos Morris is the only senior in that group; otherwise, it has been Nate Mason (a sophomore), and a group of freshman trying to learn on the fly and crack the rotation.

Overall, Pitino's been playing quite a few people. Over the first two games, he's been playing 8-9 guys regularly. More than likely, he's trying to work out lineup configurations and basically find what works (and what doesn't). Who knows? The mix-and-match lineups may continue throughout the season. Young players, at times, struggle with consistency game-to-game, so Pitino may shift his lineups on the fly. It's probably just the reality of Gopher basketball, for the moment.

The Gophers are 2-0, which is encouraging. It's right where they should be, and defensively, they've played pretty well. Now, things will change in Big Ten play, but they also haven't been getting killed on the glass. In the backcourt, Carlos Morris and Nate Mason have been logging the most minutes, and Pitino has elected to bring his freshmen off the bench. (With Joey King, who's more of a stretch four, Pitino effectively has three on the perimeter anyway.)

The guards, as a group, have accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team's rebounds thus far. Morris has size, and is attacking the glass, and surprisingly, freshman Kevin Dorsey is mixing it up too (10 rebounds in 46 total minutes played).

I mentioned earlier that it's difficult to parse out the youth from the total group, but let's go ahead and try anyway to specifically look at some of the freshman:

Kevin Dorsey

I'll start with Dorsey; of all the freshman, he's seen the most consistent minutes (23 MPG) alongside either Morris or Mason. He's shooting 6-for-15 on the year, and actually hit double figures in points (11) in the Gopher's win against Louisiana-Monroe. He played down the stretch in that game, and hit a big three with under five minutes to go. His jumper put Minnesota up 59-51, and extended what had been a tenuous lead.

Pitino had him in at "crunch time," which indicates how well Dorsey had been playing and that he trusts Dorsey. Even though against a lesser non-conference opponent, these minutes are important for Dorsey's confidence and development.

Dupree McBrayer

McBrayer was 0-for-7 in the opener, but did play 20 minutes and got to the line four times. (McBrayer also went 0-for-2 in the second game.) He's a bit of a slasher, rather than a traditional guard. He's big, so defensively he should be an asset on the perimeter, but he may struggle a bit more offensively than say Dorsey. He should find a niche though, and it may be as a slasher, who provides size on the perimeter.

Ahmad Gilbert

Gilbert didn't play in the first game, and only hit the floor for seven minutes against Louisiana-Monroe. From the early going, Gilbert may have a harder time cracking the current backcourt rotation. An injury may thrust him into a larger role, but for the time being, he'll play behind McBrayer, Dorsey, Morris and Mason.

Overall

I mentioned him briefly, but Nate Mason is really the foundation of this group. (Obviously Carlos Morris contributes to that foundation as well.) Just a sophomore, Mason's the primary ballhandler, and has been logging the most minutes (nearly 35 minutes per game so far). Offensively, he's also the main perimeter creator, again alongside Morris.

I'm intrigued by this young group and the possible rotation. Dorsey looks like he'll be a solid contributor this season already, and with Mason, that could be a good backcourt. (Obviously the Jarvis Johnson health issue hurts the long term ceiling of the group.) But, with some incoming talent and the developing talent on the roster, this could be one of the strengths for Minnesota this season.