Last season’s Minnesota Gophers were the surprise of the Big Ten going from a basement dweller in 2015 to a five seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2016. The Gophers now return almost every contributor from their 25-win team last year, including Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, and Amir Coffey.
With only one every game rotation player departing this offseason, the Gophers should be a favorite to compete in the top five of the conference. But can the team find a way to overcome its offseason departures? Let’s take a look.
Springs transferred to Minnesota from the University of Milwaukee in Wisconsin for his senior year. He was one of Minnesota’s most dangerous threats from outside of the arc, shooting 38% from the three-point line. That shooting mark helped him average nine points per game.
Minnesota’s head coach Richard Pitino described Springs as a leader to the team who brought tons of energy when on the court.
“He came here with no ego,” said Pitino. “He transformed our locker room. He made some huge shots for us”. (Star Tribune)
Unfortunately for Springs and Minnesota his season came to an end early in the Big Ten Tournament when he tore his achilles against Michigan State.
Springs' leadership will be missed most by the Gophers, but he claims that there will be no drop off with players like Mason returning to the team.
“I think he’s (Mason) ready for it,” said Springs. “As much as I hate that I didn’t get to play in the NCAA tournament. I think what it did was it gave other guys the chance to experience the tournament and experience what it was like playing without me – how it’s going to be next year.” (Star Tribune)
Minnesota will look to Mason to be the leader on the court that Springs was last year.
-Eric Curry (Out for Season)
Sophomore Eric Curry is still on the Minnesota roster, however he will not play this season.
After having an above average freshman season, averaging 5.5 points and six rebounds per game, and contributing off of the bench, Eric Curry was expected to take on more minutes and more of a roll in the Golden Gophers rotation this year. Unfortunately, that will not happen.
In late August, Curry tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in his knee while playing in a pickup basketball game. Even worse for Minnesota, this was the second straight offseason losing a potential starter to a season ending knee injury when Davonte Fitzgerald went down last year with a torn ACL.
As devastated as Curry was about having to sit out the year, his coach could not speak better about his return in the future.
“Eric had a tremendous summer but I am positive he will continue to get better as he recovers from this setback,” said Pitino. (AJC)
Losing Springs from a leadership stand point and Curry for depth will be tough. However, the Gophers are returning more than enough pieces that they will considered a contender for a conference championship and another top five seed in the NCAA tournament.