More than any Big Ten men's basketball team so far this spring, the Gophers have been hit hard by the transfer portal.
Liam Robbins became the eighth Gophers player to enter his name into the transfer portal, sources confirmed Tuesday to the Star Tribune.
Penn State (seven), Nebraska (six) and Indiana (five) are three Big Ten teams that had the most names in the portal behind Minnesota, which has had seven players enter the portal since season's end, along with Jarvis Omersa, who entered after he opted out midseason.
"It definitely is uncharted waters for everybody," new Gophers coach Ben Johnson said Monday on 100.3 KFAN radio. "If any coach told you they've got it figured out they're lying. Because you don't.
"And it changes your roster minute by minute. One kid all of a sudden could tell you one day that they're happy and, boom, in 10 hours they say they changed their mind and are going into the portal."
Robbins potentially not returning to play for the Gophers means Johnson would need to find another post player capable of being one of the best in the conference.
The 7-foot junior averaged 11.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and a Big Ten-best 2.7 blocks last season after transferring from Drake. He was a major factor in the Gophers' five wins vs. ranked opponents, including Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State.
“If a kid isn't from this area and something opens up back home. All of a sudden it becomes more intriguing to them. Or coaching changes. That affects the portal big time.”
Robbins was sidelined the U's last six games with a sprained left ankle after suffering the injury in the Feb. 11 win vs. Purdue at home. He played hobbled in three games before shutting it down for the rest of the season. The Gophers finished the season 1-8 when he was hurt or sidelined.
Robbins' uncle, Ed Conroy, was an associate head coach under Richard Pitino, who was fired at the end of the season. It's unclear if Conroy will be retained by Johnson when he soon hires his staff.
The Gophers could have an almost entirely new roster for the 2021-22 season since Both Gach and Isaiah Ihnen are the only non-seniors currently expected to return. Starters from last season in the portal include Robbins, All-Big Ten point guard Marcus Carr, Gabe Kalscheur, Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Tre' Williams. And non-starters in the portal include Omersa, Sam Freeman and Martice Mitchell.
"Could be for a number of reasons," Johnson told the radio station on why players enter the portal. "If a kid isn't from this area and something opens up back home. All of a sudden it becomes more intriguing to them. Or coaching changes. That affects the portal big time.
"It's something you always have to monitor and it's forever changing. I think it's probably going to be the way things go at least for the rest of this year. It's something you have to navigate and have a handle on it the best you can."
Pitino finished 14-15 last season, but Carr was named All-Big Ten second team and Robbins was a candidate for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award given to the nation's top center.
Johnson has already landed three transfers with George Washington's Jamison Battle, Lafayette's E.J. Stephens, and William & Mary's Luke Loewe. That gives the Gophers some depth on the wing, but they are still searching for the replacements at point guard and in the post.
Johnson has been in contact with Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu, who had a breakout season for the Bulldogs last season. The 6-foot guard averaged 22.6 points and shot 46.9% from three-point range in his last nine games, which included 26 points and six threes in an NCAA tournament loss vs. USC.
To fill the void in the paint, Johnson has reached out to Creighton's Christian Bishop, Indiana's Race Thompson and Division II Northern State All-American Parker Fox.
Johnson did a video conference call with Fox recently and Thompson on Monday. Fox narrowed his list to eight schools over the weekend: Minnesota, Florida State, Ohio State, Creighton, Texas Christian, Dayton, San Diego State and Vanderbilt.