This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Does the Gophers incoming class of recruits deserve an 'F?'

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players, Recruiting, Richard Pitino Updated: October 15, 2013 - 1:20 PM

This year’s USA Today college basketball preview magazine grades the individual Big Ten incoming classes according to how strong the new additions are.

The Gophers are the only team in the conference that receive an ‘F.’

From a distance, it’s easy to see why this Gophers class seems so weak. Deandre Mathieu is a tiny guard that has only JUCO experience. Malik Smith is a transfer from Florida International, a team nestled in the Sun Belt conference before this season (and now sits at the bottom of Conference USA). Daquein McNeil, the only true freshman, is given just a two-star ranking by ESPN. No one knows (still) whether Drake transfer Joey King will be able to play right away, or will have to sit out a year if the NCAA denies his waiver request.

Does the Minnesota incoming class deserve an F? Under the USA Today grading system, no other team received worse than a D (Penn State received a D+ and Michigan State received a D).

Let’s take a look at other newcomers around the conference for comparison:

Illinois – It’s a big class and there is plenty to watch, even if there aren’t necessarily candidates to step up and replace Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson right away. Jon Ekey (a transfer from Illinois State) is eligible right away, and could be a force in the frontcourt. Austin Colbert, a 6-9 four-star and Maverick Morgan, a 6-10 three-star according to Rivals, add more size. Malcolm Hill (four-star), Kendrick Nunn (four-star) and Jaylon Tate (three-star) are all interesting guards. There’s a good mix of talent and roles here.

Indiana – For the Big Ten team that lost the most, a stellar incoming class really helps keeps things optimistic in Bloomington. Noah Vonleh is a McDonald’s All-American, Luke Fischer should make loss of Cody Zeller less painful, talented wings Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson will help fill Victor Oladipo’s shoes and Evan Gordan, a transfer from Arizona State is proven at a high level. It’s enough to keep the Hoosiers very interesting/intimidating in 2013-14.

Iowa – The Hawkeyes bring in Peter Jok, a three-star and the top recruit in state, making their new class one of the smallest – but Jarrod Uthoff, a four-star transfer from Wisconsin who sat out last two years (most recently as transfer to Iowa) is also waiting in the wings.

Michigan – Five-star guard Zak Irvin, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball for last year and Derrick Walton (a four-star guard from Michigan) will try to take over for Trey Burke; along with four-star power forward Mark Donnal, it makes for a very strong class.

Michigan State – This class should look pretty familiar to the Gophers. There’s Chicago wing Alvin Ellis – remember him?—who originally committed to the Gophers before de-committing after Richard Pitino was hired. And power forward Gavin Schilling, who the Gophers were hard after with Tubby Smith at the helm. Don’t get too up-in-arms about the losses though; both are three-stars, and the class is nothing to rave about. But then again, this year, it doesn’t seem like the Spartans will need it.

Nebraska – Tai Webster, a true freshman point guard from New Zealand has drawn some interest, and Terran Petteway, a wing transfer from Texas Tech (who sat out last year), could have an impact. Walter Pitchford, a Florida transfer, is also now eligible. The Huskers don’t have a lot of success to fall from, so who knows, maybe the new mix could be an improvement.

Northwestern – Just one addition here -- Nate Taphorn, a 6-7 shooter, molded in the Northwestern way. Of course, the alteration from a year ago that is getting the most attention is Drew Crawford, who is back from a shoulder injury.

Ohio State – Marc Loving was Ohio’s Mr. Basketball; Kameron Williams is a fellow four-star. Both have some adapting to do, but the skill is obvious.

Penn State – It will be fun to watch what Graham Woodward (an Edina kid) can do at point guard in Happy Valley. Otherwise, the class is fairly underwhelming.

Purdue – Bryson Scott, a combo guard, was in the running for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball and intrigues from the start. Kendall Stephens and Basil Smotherman (what a name), both four-stars, should contribute. This class could help the Boilermakers take the next step this year.

Wisconsin – Nigel Hayes, a 6-7 forward Minnesota was after under Tubby, could have really helped the size-less Gophers this season. Vitto Brown could find a frontcourt role off the bat in Madison as well. Bronson Koenig has some potential at point. The class isn’t amazing, but there is intrigue.

Some of these classes are quite impressive (see Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Purdue); others are not (Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan State). Is the Gophers’ class really the worst? An F, after all, is quite a statement.

I think part of the analysis has to do with need. Michigan State, for example, while not bringing in any blow-you-away recruits, is in a position to be the preseason national No. 1. Even Penn State and Northwestern didn’t have the same glaring position holes as the Gophers heading into the summer. Part of the concern with Minnesota’s pickings, both nationally and locally, is that they don’t really address the problem. After losing both Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams (not to mention Andre Ingram, to round out the bulk of the frontcourt from last season), the Gophers replace their rebounders and size with guards, guards, guards (and small ones at that).

Now, this isn’t necessarily sloppy oversight; there are reasons aplenty:

1. Richard Pitino inherited a bare cupboard after Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster (a 6-8 forward) decommitted (which is how my sources say it happened, versus Foster being shooed off, as some have speculated). April is very, very late to begin recruiting for the following fall.

2. The staff genuinely believed they had a good shot at getting Rakeem Buckles, a 6-7 forward who followed Pitino from Louisville to Florida International. The NCAA didn’t agree.

3. It seemed like a strong bet for Drake transfer Joey King, a 6-7 power forward, to get a waiver to play immediately. The NCAA still hasn’t weighed in on that.

The Gophers also have Charles Buggs available, who redshirted last year. The 6-7 power forward has bulked up substantially over the off-season, and certainly has promise. Still, he's very raw, and there's just one of him.

So no, the Gophers incoming class has not really dealt with their brazen needs. As for the players that did sign with Minnesota, it's way too early to say.

One thing I believe is true about Richard Pitino is that he is a pretty sound judge of talent. He watched and learned for years under his father, and under Billy Donovan, figuring out that the ability to select the right personnel is a huge part of what makes coaches successful. Pitino said from the start that he wouldn’t sign players just to fill spots. He has seen something in these guys – and the optimistic side says that he found under-the-radar recruits, given his circumstances, and those plays just might, in turn, over-achieve.

Maybe he has found the right under-the-radar mix. Maybe the knock on this class is legitimate. Either way, this is the kind of class that you really have to see in action to evaluate.

As a whole, the class is seen as disappointing not so much because of the players in it, but because of the players that aren't. It doesn’t fill the greatest need – size. Some of that disappointment could be offset by pleasant surprises from the guards (and King if he is available).

Given the lack of depth up front, they should have plenty of opportunities to show just how dynamic they can be.

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Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19

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