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Checking In On the Minnesota Golden Gophers Frontcourt

Minnesota's frontcourt was a huge question mark heading into the season. Young and without much depth, how have they developed throughout the year?

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at Minnesota's roster at the beginning of the season, it was pretty clear: the Gophers were going to be thin on the front line. Minnesota lost longtime contributors (Maurice Walker and Elliot Eliason) and were set to rely on unproven, young talent (Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou).

Generally, Minnesota has been competitive inside. They've hung tough against bigger units, and really haven't been dominated on the glass. Let's take a look at the group more specifically.

Bakary Konate & Joey King

Konate has been a starter and really the only traditional big who plays (we'll get to Diedhiou). He's playing just over 20 minutes a game and depending on the match-ups, Konate really isn't a part of Minnesota's more effective lineup (like when they go small). Offensively, Konate's still a bit awkward. At least not yet, the Gophers can't really run plays for him or dump the ball inside for a score. He doesn't have any go-to post moves, nor does he demonstrate touch around the basket (shooting around 28 percent).

Opposing teams will not double in the post, allowing him to work freely. When given space to catch and collect, Konate can finish above the rim, but that's about it. He does provide a big body in the lane and has the length to contest shots at the rim. However, Konate struggles to defend pick-and-rolls; he's not adept yet at shifting his feet effectively when he's forced to move.

King's playing slightly out of position at times and has been asked to guard much bigger defenders. He's more of a stretch three/four and is actually shooting above 40 percent from three. To his credit, he's battled on defense, but playing him against say A.J. Hammons isn't an ideal match up.

Gaston Diedhiou

Diedhiou can be considered a disappointment, only in the sense that he hasn't played at all. Against Northwestern, Pitino put him in with the game after it was well out of reach, with Diedhiou only playing about five minutes a night. His lack of playing time indicates that he's not ready at all and Pitino doesn't trust him. Gopher fans were really hoping for a Konate-Diedhiou anchored frontcourt and certainly on paper they look formidable. But in terms of having refined skills and a general understanding of offensive/defensive concepts, they both struggle.

One could argue that Diediou hasn't played enough and with Minnesota in its current state, what's there to lose getting him some minutes? At this point Diediou is a non-factor and whether he becomes a factor depends entirely on getting opportunities and of course what he does with them.

Overall

Murphy's also a huge part of the front court, obviously. He and King, or he and Konate, can play together effectively. But I've written about Murphy's development recently. The Gophers are 294th in the country at just over 33 rebounds per game, but they haven't been crushed by it. Perhaps other bigger issues have masked their struggles on the boards (like poor perimeter defense and shooting). In fact, Minnesota's opponents are only outrebounding them by five per game (at just over 38 rebounds).

Purdue crushed Minnesota on the glass, which is to be expected, but overall the team has competed well in that area. Next year, they get some reinforcements on the glass and should be much deeper and more stout in the frontcourt.