First things first: tonight was a scrimmage, nothing more.
So pencilling in Deandre Mathieu as the Gophers' new star of the team and Oto Osenieks as a starter is probably a tad unrealistic.
It was, however, entertaining to watch the intrasquad matchup. It was our first opportunity, after all, to see the team in coach Richard Pitino's new system, get glimpses of the new players and see the lconayovers in action for the first time in months.
If all goes according to plan, the Gophers will be a very different team than theAy were last year, when Minnesota's pace seemed to get slower and slower as the Big Ten schedule wore on. Certainly, they looked the picture of Pitino's philosophy on Friday, sprinting up the court, playing with tons of energy and pressing constantly. There were impressive performances from JUCO guard Mathieu (a game-high 26 points) and junior forward Osenieks (16 points, seven rebounds), who turned some heads after such a disappointing 2012-13. Austin Hollins looked incredibly comfortable in the new system and Andre Hollins, while quiet offensively, had a game-high five steals.
Of course, there were plenty of obvious weaknesses, most notably turnovers -- something I expected would get worse before it got better.
Both the MAROON and GOLD teams struggled to control the ball in the sometimes-hectic pace, with the former turning over 18 times to 15 assists and the latter, slipping up 17 times with just five assists to try to balance the sloppiness.
Part of that is strangely encouraging -- it's the Gophers on the other end causing all the havoc. But many of the turnovers were clearly unforced, showing that it's still very much a work in progress.
A few other quick notes from tonight:
- Pitino noted that the starting roles -- which he lives to downplay in general -- are very much up in the air. "I think we’ve probably got 7-8 guys I would consider starting," he said. Pitino named Mathieu, Maverick Ahanmisi, Malik Smith, Austin Hollins, Joey King, Andre Hollins, Mo Walker, Elliott Eliason and Oto Osenieks as possibilties.
- The coach also noted that he could go as deep as "9, 10, 11" players on a regular basis, but noted that the decisions of how the minutes will be distributed will be made in the next couple of weeks.
- Find the full box score from the scrimmage here.