I’m still in my first week on the beat, which means I’m going through the usual first-week stuff for the first time. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing tons of reading and have looked at ranking after ranking for the Big Ten. Now, it’s time to form my own prediction.
So I thought I would open the floor. Nearly every national and local publication I’ve read puts the Gophers somewhere between 7 and 10. But with so many new expectations for new players and old, hopeful expectations for old players, two very, very different seasons could play out.
First, imagine the best-case scenario:
- Andre Hollins is your point guard and he proves to be everything Tubby thinks he can be: athletic, a scorer and intelligent enough to take the reins and truly run an offense.
- Trevor Mbakwe leads the team and naturally improves on his game from last year.
- Rodney Williams puts together the season he should have put together the last two years.
- Ralph Sampson III steps up in his senior season to be the late-game force he needs to be.
- Mo Walker is healthy and other young players on the team make solid contributions.
- Tubby finds the players he needs to make his offense go and things run like a well-oiled machine.
Secondly, look at the flip-side:
- Tubby said of Hollins and Joe Coleman “I don’t think we’ve recruited two better people, maybe in my coaching career.” He’s put a lot of stock in his young guys. If they can’t play, the entire team struggles. In the worst-case scenario, Hollins is young and technically not a true point. That shows, and the Gophers are again weak at the position.
- Williams underperforms and Sampson is inconsistent as he was at times last season.
- The team struggles as a whole from outside the arc, and gets lost late in games when they are down by just a few points.
- The youth of the team proves to be a hindrance resulting in mental mistakes and turnovers.
What’s the highest the Gophers could go? What’s the lowest? Most likely, the Gophers won’t see either a best-case or worst-case scenario. Some things will go right –maybe an unexpected player will emerge as a force. Some things – perhaps ones that none of us could predict preseason – will go wrong. Realistically, where do you put them in the Big Ten this year?
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