The topic of the Gophers' frontcourt thinness has been discussed exhaustingly heading into the season. At power forward, the only real options are Joey King and Oto Osenieks, with redshirt freshman Charles Buggs still a little too raw, according to coach Richard Pitino.
Neither have claimed the starting role at this point, and both have their shortcomings. So what if neither differentiate themselves in the next few weeks? Does Pitino platoon the pair and hope someone emerges as a more considerable threat over the course of the non-conference schedule? Or does he try something different -- a four-guard lineup?
The latter is something Pitino is keeping in his back pocket as a consideration.
With a guard-loaded team, the move could make some sense if he could get his power-forward stand-in to play tougher around the basket. With the Gophers, it seems to be worth the experiment since the natural fours on the team aren't very rebound-oriented anyway. In Friday's exhibition against Cardinal Stritch, King had just a single rebound and Osenieks had three.
At one point in the first half, Pitino played a lineup of Maverick Ahanmisi, Malik Smith, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Elliott Eliason.
There are others options as well, with Deandre Mathieu playing well at point guard. It's something that may be toyed with more in the next few weeks.
"I thought it went OK," Pitino said. "We played Austin at the four, and if Austin is going to play at the four, he needs to rebound the ball. And he got zero rebounds ... We’re going to continue to watch the film. We’re going to play a little bit of that."
Austin Hollins is probably the best option as a guard at that spot, considering his length and also his defensive ability. But Wally Ellenson could be another possibility as a bigger guard, and one with great leaping ability to attack the boards. The biggest problem, of course, would seem to be defensive assignments, attempting to block out opponents that are physically much bigger. It would certainly give the Big Ten a look it hasn't seen, at least in a very long time.
Could it be effective? It seems like a tough responsibility. I don't think Pitino is chomping at the bit to do it full-time. Whether it proves to be the best option in the long run, however, only time will tell.