Since 2000, the Big Ten conference has been loaded with elite talents and some of college basketball’s greatest players. Fans have seen numerous Big Ten players earn All-Americans and National Players of the Year honors during that time.
But who have been the best?
With the offseason in full swing, BTPowerhouse has decided to sit down and break down the Big Ten’s greatest players since the start of the 2000-’01 season. We will be taking a look at each program and how it fits into the league.
This time, we will look at the greatest players from the last 17 seasons for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Please note that this evaluation only looks at college contributions at the particular school. It does not include a player’s contributions at another school or at the professional level.
Brief Recap Since 2000
However, before we jump into the discussion regarding Minnesota’s greatest players over the last 17 seasons, let’s take a moment to recap what the program has done during that time frame. Before we get to the best players, let’s dive into some of the statistics.
Brief Stats Since 2000
- NCAA Tournament Appearances: Five
- Winning Seasons: 14
- Big Ten POTY Winners: Zero
- Consensus All-Americans: Zero
Over the last 17 seasons, the Gophers have had middling success, but not the level to other top-tier Big Ten programs. Since 2000, Minnesota has won only one game in five trips to the NCAA Tournament, upsetting sixth seed UCLA in 2012-2013 season. In Minnesota’s last NCAA Tournament appearance, the team was upset as the fifth seed, falling to Middle Tennessee State.
Although Minnesota has a lack of NCAA Tournament bids, the program has seven NIT appearances. The Gophers have been successful during those showings, with a record of 27-12 (.692 winning percentage) under multiple coaches.
Under Tubby Smith, the team finished runner-up in the NIT Championship, falling to Stanford in the 2011-2012 season. Two years later under head coach Richard Pitino the Gophers went on to win the NIT Championship over SMU in the 2013-2014 season. Now let’s take a look at some of the players that helped Minnesota’s program achieve NCAA and NIT success.
Minnesota’s Mount Rushmore Since 2000
-Andre Hollins (2011-2015)
Andre Hollins had quite the decorated career during his time at Minnesota. As the floor general, Hollins posted double-digit scoring and averaged three or more assists in three of his four seasons at Minnesota. Hollins scoring has to be contributed to his ability get easy points at the free-throw line. The former point guard has the school record for free-throw percentage in a season, shooting 90 percent from the charity stripe during the 2011-2012 season.
Along with have a knack for getting to the free throw line, Hollins was also a major threat from beyond the arc during his career. Hollins has the second and third best seasons for the record of three-pointers made in a season, with 82 made in 2014-’15 and 81 made in 2012-’13. Hollins shot 41 percent from three in both of those seasons.
Besides being an excellent statistical presence for the Gophers, Hollins also provided great leadership that led to successful seasons. Under Hollins’ guidance, Minnesota made one NCAA Tournament bid and won a NIT Championship and finished runner-up in another. Hollins career accolades include two All-Big Ten honorable mentions.
-Kris Humphries (2003-2004)
First off, this has nothing to do with Kris Humphries marriage with Kim Kardashian. This is strictly about Humphries unreal freshmen year during the 2003-04 season. Humphries averaged an impressive 21 points and 10 rebounds per game that earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
While Humphries dominated nearly every statistical category that season, the team struggled, finishing with a 12-18 record. Even with no team success, I still think Humphries needs to be included on Minnesota’s Mount Rushmore.
The former Gophers star led the Big Ten in points, rebounds, field goals made and free-throws attempted during his one collegiate season. Minnesota fans may never see that statistical season again, especially from a freshmen.
-Nate Mason (2014-Present)
Is it premature to put Nate Mason on this list already? Let’s take a look at what he’s done so far at Minnesota. Mason has improved statistically every season. Mason’s improvement every season is impressive considering that his role has increased year-to-year.
Mason’s leadership and play was a huge factor on why Minnesota was able to turn the program around last season after an awful (8-23 record) 2015-’16 season. Mason’s presence and team success earned him All-Big Ten First Team. The junior point guard ranked ninth in the Big Ten in scoring, fourth in assists and fifth in steals. Mason also helped lead Minnesota to their highest seed (5) ever in the NCAA Tournament.
The point guard is now entering his senior season with high expectations. Mason will have his chance this season to cement himself as one of the all-time Minnesota greats.
-Trevor Mbakwe (2010-2013)
Trevor Mbakwe was an absolute force during his time at Minnesota. Mbakwe owns the third highest total of rebounds for a season in 2010-’11 when he grabbed 327 boards. Mbakwe was a double-double threat throughout his Gopher career.
During his three years at Minnesota, Mbakwe averaged double-digit scoring and eight rebounds or more — including the 2010-’11 season when he averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds per game. Mbakwe did most of his work around the rim, and he was efficient, posting a 58% average field goal percentage during his three years in a Gopher uniform.
Along with Hollins, Mbakwe was part of those teams that had great success in the NIT and also played a key role in the team that made the NCAA Tournament in the 2012-’13 season. Although the team success is not up to par with the elite Big Ten programs, the former Minnesota center was a player that helped pave the way for what Minnesota basketball has become in recently.
And now that Minnesota has experienced minor success, the program is hoping to become an elite program that is contending for Big Ten titles every year. The Gophers took a step in the right direction last season, let’s see if the team can carry on the momentum.
Honorable Mention: Rick Rickert, Vincent Grier, Austin Hollins