1 FIND A POINT GUARD
Last year the Gophers fell from the national rankings and ultimately missed out on the NIT as they struggled to find a suitable replacement for starting point guard Al Nolen, who missed 17 games with a foot injury. This season, those responsibilities will fall to one of two inexperienced players -- true freshman Andre Hollins or junior college transfer Julian Welch -- who will be expected to offer immediate contributions, despite their youth.
2 GET THE BEST OUT OF TREVOR MBAKWE
The junior earned All-Big Ten second-team honors in a year interrupted by a few distractions. If he can limit those challenges, add a little range to his game and make a few more free throws, Mbakwe could put together one of the more impressive seasons by a big man in recent Gophers history.
3 HIRE A FREE-THROW EXPERT
The Gophers lost nine Big Ten games by single digits last season. They shot 69 percent from the free-throw line, 10th in the Big Ten. See a correlation? A young Gophers squad with limited depth will need to improve from the charity stripe to secure more favorable outcomes in tight games this season.
4 NEWCOMERS MUST RISE ABOVE EXPECTATIONS
The Gophers roster features seven players who have never competed in a Big Ten game. But Tubby Smith needs one or two newcomers to play like a veteran. The most likely candidate is Andre Hollins, Tennessee's Mr. Basketball last season. Elliott Eliason, a redshirt freshman center, should help, too. Smith's young players must grow up fast.
5 TUBBY SMITH HAS TO MAINTAIN CONTROL
During last season's skid -- the Gophers lost 10 of their final 11 -- Smith offered few answers to remedy his team's woes. Despite the task and the problems that the squad encountered, Smith makes $1.8 million per year to create a sense of stability within the program. And last season's team lacked that quality. If his youngest Gophers squad hits similar obstacles, he will have to find a way to avoid the downward spiral that ruined the 2011-12 season.