The Gophers know they need Reggie Lynch healthy and playing at a high level if they want to reach their potential this season.
Trying to rush the 6-foot-10, 260-pound junior center into a major role after he recovers from knee surgery at the end of this month isn't ideal.
Lynch is progressing since surgery after suffering a meniscus tear in his left knee during practice last month. He's running and will start non-contact work in practice this week, according to the Gophers.
Of course, Gophers coach Richard Pitino wants Lynch to be a dominant presence when the season opens Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette, but it might not be that soon.
"I think it's unrealistic to expect him to be 100 percent," Pitino said Thursday at Big Ten media day. "He sat out all summer, didn't practice. He had shoulder surgery in February. Even he doesn't understand how hard it's going to be to get back and get into game shape. But the time he did practice (prior to the knee surgery), he looked really good."
Team trainer Ben Felz is working on strengthening Lynch's knee, while also improving his conditioning.
"He's doing the best he can to stay in shape," Pitino said. "We need him to hit the ground running. But I also got to tell myself, you've got to be patient."
After losing junior forward Davonte Fitzgerald for the season with a torn ACL, Pitino realizes how fortunate the Gophers are that Lynch's knee injury wasn't major.
"You wouldn't have known he was injured," Pitino said. "It wasn't like a specific thing, and then he was out for practice. It was bothering him a little bit. He told our trainer to take a look at it. And there was a slight tear. But it was nothing big. I think it was more let's get this done now, so he can be full go during the season."
If Lynch isn't ready to start in the opener, then 6-11 junior Bakary Konate could fill that spot. Konate is the most experienced big man on the roster with 26 starts last season. Freshman Eric Curry is the most skilled post player on the team and has the size to play center at 6-9, 235 pounds.
Gaston Diedhiou, a 6-10 junior, started the first two games at center last year when Konate was recovering from a broken foot.
Best case scenario, though, is Pitino doesn't have to wait that long for Lynch to get comfortable.
"Bakary wasn't ready to play major minutes last year," Pitino said. "He's gotten a lot better. He's more fluid catching balls and scoring in the lost post. Eric Curry is really, I believe, a steal for us. I know Amir (Coffey) gets a lot of hype. But Eric was a really good get for us. He can play the five. I believe Reggie's got all-conference potential when he's healthy. But we've got some tough games early (Lafayette, Texas-Arlington, St. John's, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Florida State). So we've got to be ready."
-- Lynch and Fitzgerald won't be participating in the Gophers' open scrimmage Saturday at Williams Arena. But fans will get their first glimpse at newcomers such as Curry, freshman guard Amir Coffey, freshman forward Michael Hurt and senior guard Akeem Springs. The scrimmage will take place 20 minutes after Minnesota's homecoming football game against Rutgers, which starts at 11 a.m. at TCF Bank Stadium.
-- Sports Illustrated college basketball writer Luke Winn posted a story Monday morning that used their college basketball projection formula to predict the points per game for the top 50 incoming freshmen in the country. Coffey was ranked 22nd with 9.7 points per game. That was third in the Big Ten behind Michigan State's McDonald All-Americans Miles Bridges (10th nationally with 12.5 ppg) and Joshua Langford (15th nationally with 10.2).
For those of you who think Coffey should average much more than that this year, just remember big-time scoring freshmen don't come around that often.
Last season, Jordan Murphy averaged 11.6 points per game. It was the eighth highest freshman scoring average in the program history and the most since NBA veteran Kris Humphries' school freshman record 21.7 points per game in 2003-04.