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2016-17 Minnesota Preview: the Wings

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NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Illinois vs Minnesota Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.

Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the wings for Minnesota. Coming off of an eight win season, Minnesota’s roster and depth chart is likely wide open as head coach Richard Pitino should be open to turning to whoever produces the most on the court, regardless of experience. Minnesota has been bad and the future likely rests in the recent additions to the program, including potential stars like Amir Coffey.

When it comes to the wing position, Minnesota did suffer a few setbacks here. One of the biggest hits the Gophers will take heading into the season is the loss of Joey King. While King, at 6’9”, was more of a frontcourt option, the senior was a legitimate perimeter threat as he hit over 40% of his three points (5.0 attempts per game). To further complicate things, Texas A&M transfer Davonte Fitzgerald suffered an offseason injury and now will miss the 2016-17 season after sitting out last year due to transfer rules.

BTPowerhouse Preview - Minnesota Wings:

Departures: Joey King

Additions: Amir Coffey, Michael Hurt

Top Player: Jordan Murphy

Starting Rotation

Jordan Murphy was a Big Ten All-Freshman Team honoree and became a more prominent player for the Gophers as the season went on. Heading into his sophomore season, if Murphy can build from last year it could pay dividends for the Gophers. In his first season with the program Murphy would go on to average 11.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, becoming one of the most productive Gophers last season as he was third in points per game and led the team in rebounds. With Joey King now out of the picture, Murphy’s ability to clean up on the glass and perform on offense will be even more vital.

One area that Murphy needs to improve on is his ability to hit from outside. He only shot 41 three pointers, but was limited to 22% from three. If he could develop a more prominent three point shot he could be set for an even more impressive sophomore season. His limitation from the perimeter could lead to freshman Amir Coffey seeing more looks at the wing, with Murphy spending more time in the frontcourt instead. We already know Murphy is a capable rebounder, so having him spend more time down low wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Bench Rotation

Amir Coffey is the player to keep an eye on this winter for Minnesota. Coffey is ranked as a four-star recruit and landed in the top 50 per 247Sports composite rankings. He was also considered to be the top recruit from the state of Minnesota, with his commitment to Minnesota a big recruiting win for Pitino.

Coffey has shown the ability to score both inside and out, while also finding ways to create looks for his teammates. His versatility is a massive benefit and if Coffey can quickly hit the ground running, he should see some serious playing time early on this season.

Also in the mix is sophomore Ahmad Gilbert and freshman Michael Hurt. Gilbert saw increased playing time as the Gophers dealt with injuries and suspensions, but he never blossomed into much of an offensive threat. While he was only a freshman, he ended up averaging 3.4 points per game in around 14 minutes a game. Even when he saw increased playing time over the last month or so of the season, his scoring didn’t increase very much. His shooting was relatively woeful last year as well, hitting 30.8% of his attempts and only 22.7% from three.

Michael Hurt, a three star wing from Rochester, could see some time at wing this year, but he may need to spend some time developing before he’s ready for some legitimate minutes. The freshman was a prolific score at the high school level and also racked up plenty of rebounds and assists, while showcasing an impressive three point shot. He wasn’t particularly known for his ability to get to the rim, though, and he might be a bit thin when it comes to other Big Ten wings, so he may be a work in progress. If his perimeter shot transitions to the college game, though, he could see some minutes soon enough.

Overall

Minnesota was dreadful last year, but this year’s set of wings do offer some promise heading forward. Jordan Murphy was one of the few bright spots from last season and is only a sophomore, but his struggles shooting the ball from outside could see him take on more of a frontcourt role heading forward. That’s not a bad thing with highly touted freshman Amir Coffey likely to see immediate playing time. If Coffey, a local talent, is as good as advertised than Minnesota could be set for considerable improvement in 2016-17.