We don't know how good Minnesota will be next year nor do we know who'll ultimately emerge on the roster. But we do know the team will look much different in comparison to this past season. Transfers (incoming and outgoing) and young talent (a highly-touted freshman class) has led to quite a bit of turnover, even in the era of transfers and one-and-dones.
It's fair to say, unless another off-the-court incident occurs, that we know who'll be on Minnesota's roster next season. Head coach Richard Pitino tried a few different starting lineups and finally landed on playing younger talent as the season progressed. (Senior Joey King moved to an off-the-bench role, as Jordan Murphy took on more minutes.) Part of moving toward the young talent had to do with the season's progression. It became fairly clear early on that Pitino had nothing to lose by giving the youth on the roster more minutes and living with the inevitable growing pains.
The numbers tend to bear this out. All but three players (Darin Haugh, Mike Lukashewich and Kevin Dorsey) started at least one game. Much of the reason for this was due to the suspensions of Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer and Kevin Dorsey, but still, these led to quite a bit of playing time for the younger Minnesota players. Maybe more telling, seven of Minnesota's 13 players on the roster had double-digit starts.
Carlos Morris (dismissed before the season's conclusion), Charles Buggs (transferred to USC after completing his degree) and Joey King (ran out of eligibility) started a combined 56 games and played a total of 2,153 minutes. And, although he didn't start a game all year, Kevin Dorsey played in 26 games and averaged just over 18 minutes per.
We've already discussed the void left by these departures and how it perhaps won't be as large as people think. Certainly, Pitino's incoming numbers (and talent) suggest that they'll have options when it comes to lineup construction. Let's take a look.
The New Roster
Pitino secured two transfers who sat out last season: Davonte Fitzgerald and Reggie Lynch. Fitzgerald is a known quantity. He suffered an ACL injury at Texas A&M, but he had a very promising freshman season and it's known that he can compete well at the Division I level. Lynch's status is much murkier, with the sexual assault allegations. (He's currently suspended indefinitely, until the investigation is complete and who knows what his ultimate future is at Minnesota.)
Akeem Springs will add depth and experience to the roster. Unless he supplants Dupree McBrayer, it's unlikely he'll start, but his production off the bench is key. As a more seasoned player, he could provide more. Lynch was projected as the starting five-man, but now the incumbent, Bakary Konate, still holds his spot in the lineup one would think. Fitzgerald is truly the interesting piece. He could slot at a wing spot and with his size and athleticism, guard multiple positions. Some of the freshmen are of a similar size profile, but Fitzgerald has experience on his side.
Amir Coffey is probably the only freshman with a legitimate shot to start; he at least appears the most ready (upon surface analysis), but Eric Curry and Michael Hurt are both quite talented. Coffey is a wing talent, but he's more of a point forward that can create on offense. With Nate Mason on the floor, it's unlikely he'll have primary ballhandling duties. Moving Mason off the ball is an option, if Pitino eventually trusts Coffey to run the offense.
Minnesota will look different next year and it remains to be seen how the minutes shake out. Ultimately, though, will it translate to wins? I could see Pitino trotting out a lineup of Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer, Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy and Bakary Konate. Fitzgerald could factor in too and maybe even start for McBrayer or Coffey. Lynch might be a better option than Konate, but his status is uncertain.
Pitino has options, depending on how everyone has developed and improved in the off season. It's only a matter of finding the right balance and chemistry that ultimately leads to wins.