A day before the Gophers first game in 2011-12 without Trevor Mbakwe, coach Tubby Smith took the podium and looked visibly less energetic than usual, but insisted that expectations haven’t changed and that his team needs to regroup and refocus its attention going into the matchup against Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday. That also means changing several aspects from the team’s identity.
Some notes from access:
- Smith said the team wasn’t “going to change much,” but there seems to be several moves in the cards. Without Mbakwe, “we just won’t have that inside presence,” Smith said. Oto Osenieks suggested the team might be going small, and that seems likely, with most of the scoring coming from guards right now.
- Julian Welch will likely start tomorrow, Smith said, and could see a lot of time in a starting role going forward. He could play the point or shooting guard.
- Rodney Williams could play more at power forward, Smith said. “That might help Rodney get a rebound,” he said.
- Austin Hollins did not practice yesterday due to a bone bruise on his knee, sustained Sunday in the title game against Dayton.
- Ralph Sampson III did not practice yesterday and probably will not practice today, Smith said, due to continued left ankle troubles. He said it hasn’t gotten worse since the Orlando tournament, but the team is trying to give him adequate rest.
- Mbakwe’s surgery date is undetermined. He needs to wait for the swelling – which he tweeted a picture of here – to go down, and his MCL to heal before the procedure
- Smith said it is too soon to talk to Mbakwe about a possible sixth year of eligibility, but said the team was checking on whether it is an option.