Five things the U men's basketball team must do to win now

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 14, 2011 - 12:48 AM

1 FIND A POINT GUARD

Last year the Gophers fell from the national rankings and ultimately missed out on the NIT as they struggled to find a suitable replacement for starting point guard Al Nolen, who missed 17 games with a foot injury. This season, those responsibilities will fall to one of two inexperienced players -- true freshman Andre Hollins or junior college transfer Julian Welch -- who will be expected to offer immediate contributions, despite their youth.

2 GET THE BEST OUT OF TREVOR MBAKWE

The junior earned All-Big Ten second-team honors in a year interrupted by a few distractions. If he can limit those challenges, add a little range to his game and make a few more free throws, Mbakwe could put together one of the more impressive seasons by a big man in recent Gophers history.

3 HIRE A FREE-THROW EXPERT

The Gophers lost nine Big Ten games by single digits last season. They shot 69 percent from the free-throw line, 10th in the Big Ten. See a correlation? A young Gophers squad with limited depth will need to improve from the charity stripe to secure more favorable outcomes in tight games this season.

4 NEWCOMERS MUST RISE ABOVE EXPECTATIONS

The Gophers roster features seven players who have never competed in a Big Ten game. But Tubby Smith needs one or two newcomers to play like a veteran. The most likely candidate is Andre Hollins, Tennessee's Mr. Basketball last season. Elliott Eliason, a redshirt freshman center, should help, too. Smith's young players must grow up fast.

5 TUBBY SMITH HAS TO MAINTAIN CONTROL

During last season's skid -- the Gophers lost 10 of their final 11 -- Smith offered few answers to remedy his team's woes. Despite the task and the problems that the squad encountered, Smith makes $1.8 million per year to create a sense of stability within the program. And last season's team lacked that quality. If his youngest Gophers squad hits similar obstacles, he will have to find a way to avoid the downward spiral that ruined the 2011-12 season.

 

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