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Pitino has starting lineup in mind after two Gophers scrimmages

It was hard for Richard Pitino to evaluate Saturday's scrimmage with his team only playing for 14 minutes in front of fans at Williams Arena.

But the Gophers have been practicing for nearly a month and had two scrimmages. 

Pitino has an idea about what his starting lineup would be if Minnesota had to play a game right now. 

"If I had to play a game (Monday) and we're not, my guess would be I'd go Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer, Amir (Coffey), Jordan Murphy and probably Bakary Konate," Pitino said Sunday on the radio. "That would be the lineup. Again, I think when Reggie (Lynch) gets back we can pretty much plan on him being that starting center."

The Gophers have a secret scrimmage against DePaul on Saturday, so that starting lineup could get a chance to play together before the Nov. 3 exhibition game against Bemidji State. The starting center spot appears to be the only potential change before the Nov. 11 season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Lynch is expected to be cleared for full contact in practice by the end of this week. That means the Gophers' projected starting lineup going into the season is Mason, McBrayer, Coffey, Murphy and Lynch. The two new starters are Coffey and Lynch, who is recovering from meniscus surgery last month.

"He just hasn't played in a while," Pitino said Sunday about Lynch. "He had to sit out all summer. He did have (shoulder) surgery at the end of last (season). We just have to get him back healthy. He'll be a major part of what we do."

Mason, a 6-foot-2 junior, has been the most consistent player in the two scrimmages this fall. He had eight points and four assists in just 14 minutes Saturday. Pitino challenged him to prove he's one of the top point guards in the Big Ten -- and Mason is definitely motivated to do that.

McBrayer (6-5 sophomore) and Coffey (6-8 freshman) bring a lot of size, length and skill to a three-guard look with Mason. Some fans might be surprised Pitino didn't mention graduate transfer Akeem Springs as the likely starter with Coffey. But Springs is still in an adjustment period after missing summer practices taking classes to graduate from Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“We've got to get him consistently shooting the ball,” Pitino said. “He plays really hard. He defends. He's got a Big Ten body. He's got leadership. The thing about Akeem is he didn't come until August. So we've got to get him to be patient and not try to rush too much and skip steps. I think he'll get there eventually. He played in some big games. He was a really good player for a good team.”

The Gophers' low-post presence should be much improved from last season with Murphy and a healthy Lynch. But where will the three-point shooting come from with the starting group?

"A concern of mine right now is shooting," Pitino said. "I think that's all of guards. If it's Nate, Dupree and Amir playing they've got to hit that outside shot. We're continuing to work with them."

Projected Gophers starting lineup:

G – Nate Mason

G – Dupree McBrayer

G – Amir Coffey

F – Jordan Murphy

C – Bakary Konate/Reggie Lynch (when healthy)

Gophers' Lynch could return to full contact in a week

The biggest news from the Gophers basketball scrimmage didn't even happen on the court Saturday. 

Minnesota coach Richard Pitino told the crowd at intermission that center Reggie Lynch would probably be ready to compete in a full practice by the end of next week.

Lynch, a 6-10, 260-pound junior, has been sidelined since having surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his left knee. He was cleared for non-contact drills this week but didn't participate in Saturday's scrimmage.

The Edina native sat out last season after transferring from Illinois State and is expected to be the team's starting center. Lynch is currently on pace to be ready to play in Minnesota's Nov. 11 season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

-- The Gold team defeated the Maroon team 22-15 in a 14-minute scrimmage open to fans Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena after the homecoming football game. Junior guard Nate Mason led the Gold with eight points. Sophomore guard Dupree McBrayer had six points for the Maroon. 

-- The Gophers women's basketball team also held a scrimmage before the men on Saturday. Junior guard Carlie Wagner had 20 points to lead the Gold team to a 52-44 victory against the Maroon team.

-- Gophers recruiting targets attending Saturday's game included Matthew Hurt, Jalen Suggs, Daniel Oturu, Jarvis Thomas, Jack Hutchinson and Shae Mitchell.

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