In the weeks leading up to the 2017-’18 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. The Gophers return plenty of talent that will be key to the Gophers’ NCAA Tournament run.
‘BTPowerhouse Preview’ - Minnesota Wings:
- 2016-’17 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Jordan Murphy (Third Team)
- Departures: Akeem Springs
- Additions: Isaiah Washington, Jamir Harris
- Top Player: Jordan Murphy
Minnesota’s expectations couldn’t be higher for the 2017-18 season, including a projected preseason Top 25 ranking. Fifth-year head coach Richard Pitino led the Golden Gophers to a surprising 24-10 finish last season including an NCAA Tournament bid and will return an impressive amount of talent this year.
Despite returning one of the better lineups in the Big Ten, the Gophers parted ways with Akeem Springs who graduated from Minnesota after spending his final year of eligibility. He appeared in 32 contests (14 starts) and was fifth in scoring (9.5 ppg) with the most 3-pointers (67) on the team. With his loss and the injury to Eric Curry, the Gophers will fight to find experienced players to fill minutes, but will be led by a couple of talented juniors.
The Golden Gophers’ best perimeter shooter percentage wise last season was Dupree McBrayer. The junior led Minnesota in 3-point percentage, hitting 41.6 percent of the time (T-10th in the Big Ten), though he attempted only 89 threes for the year. He also will give the Gophers an additional scoring threat that will be crucial this season. McBrayer appeared in every game as a sophomore, including 21 starts, and was third on the team in assists (93). In Minnesota’s lone NCAA Tournament game last season McBrayer scored 16 points with five assists.
Murphy, the 6-foot-6 junior from San Antonio, could establish him as a true force in the Big Ten this season. He did a little bit of everything for the Gophers on his way to being named Third Team All-Big Ten as a sophomore, including a dominant stretch for the Gophers during their eight-game win streak in February and March. That impressive stretch included six double-doubles and four games of at least 15 rebounds. He will join Reggie Lynch as anchors on the defensive side of the ball that has gotten thinner with Eric Curry’s knee injury.
Murphy averaged 11.3 points per game and led the team in rebounds with 300 (8.8 rpg), which ranked fourth in the Big Ten. He also proved to be a consistent double-double threat with 12, behind only Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan (who led the nation with 28).
Despite the loss of Akeem Springs, who led the Gophers with 67 3-pointers last season and filled valuable minutes (24.1 mpg), Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer will be big assets for Minnesota. However, the depth is a little thin with experience on the wing. Head coach Richard Pitino could possibly mix-and-match with various options, including Michael Hurt, true freshman Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris. That being said, the Gophers will need Murphy and McBrayer to match last years production to avoid any potential setbacks.