The bad thing about Minnesota this season was that they were young; the good thing, going forward, is that they are young. I say "bad thing," but really being so young was more of a challenge, and an opportunity to learn and grow. So, who do the Gophers lose, and what does it mean for the team's composition into next year?
Carlos Morris were the only two seniors on the roster. Morris was already lost before the season's conclusion. Richard Pitino threw him off the team in mid-February. Morris had been a large contributor (just over 25 minutes per game, just under 10 points per game and 35 percent from three), even through his shooting was streaky at times. Morris provided a fairly steady senior presence on a team without much tenured leadership.
Part way into the year, Joey King transitioned to coming off the bench. (He started 19-of-29 games.) His willingness to come off the bench, and his attitude throughout a really difficult season demonstrated his tremendous character and leadership. Being a senior, it had to be hard knowing the end was near, and the season wasn't going anywhere. Yet, King continued to battle and give maximum effort.
He gave the team whatever they needed. On a team that struggled to shoot, King hit 40 percent from three on the season (and he took the most, 147). On a team that didn't have frontcourt depth, he regularly took the defensive challenge of guarding bigger opponents (when his natural position is probably as a stretch four, or a shooting three).
The season culminated in the team's home upset of Maryland; King delivered an impassioned post-game interview that gave everyone a glimpse of his personality and overall attitude.
Obviously, the Gophers played without Morris for the last month of the season, so they got a taste of how to manage through his void. (Minnesota beat Maryland and Rutgers without Morris.) The roster stepped up, and although unfortunate, his absence gave guys like Dupree McBrayer and Kevin Dorsey more of the backcourt minutes. (In the long term, that was a good development.)
King's departure could be a bit more troubling, or at least a harder void to fill. Nobody on the remaining roster shoots as proficiently from three as he does. (Actually, King and Morris are 1-2 in three-point shooting percentage.) Now, given an off season, Nate Mason should improve, along with McBrayer and Dorsey. And, Buggs, while streaky, can shoot.
Leadership is the big void from King's departure. As the point guard, Mason has shown more assertiveness; he has been more vocal. But, his suspension at the end of the season is troubling from a leadership perspective. He's young though; young people sometimes make regrettable mistakes, but learn from them and move forward. So, perhaps he'll back-fill the leadership void, despite his late-season tribulations.
Long-term, playing the young talent should yield dividends. They don't seem discouraged by the losing, and if they work over the off season, everyone will come back better and with more experience.
Morris and King though were not token seniors, playing out the string. They both brought something to the table, and King's absence will impact the Gophers more negatively. (After all, Minnesota played the last month, pretty successfully, without Morris.) Pitino will have to find someone to replace his shooting, attitude and leadership.