Busting Brackets

Minnesota Basketball: Are the Golden Gophers in trouble?


Minnesota basketball entered this season with a lot of confidence after they found success with last year’s team. What has gone wrong, though?

The season started out tremendously for Minnesota basketball. They started the season 7-0 and climbed as far up the AP top-25 rankings as No. 12 early on in the season. Coach Richard Pitino had his team playing well.

But, from that point on, the Gophers season began to take a turn for the worst. They lost their first game of the season at home against a very good Miami team, 86-81. This would begin a spurt where they would drop three out of their next four games.

These losses came at the hands of Miami, at Nebraska (78-68), and at Arkansas (95-79). This began to make people question the ability and overall toughness of this year’s team. The lone win in this stretch came at home against Rutgers.

Minnesota would then rattle off five straight wins, putting them back in the conversation to be in the polls again. They seemed to have turned their season around. But, then things began to go downhill again.

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  • News surfaced after Minnesota defeated Illinois on Jan. 3 that senior center Reggie Lynch was suspended indefinitely from the team after claims dating back to last year regarding Lynch sexually assaulting two different females emerged. Lynch, who has still been able to practice with the team through the suspension, may never play another game in a Gophers’ uniform again.

    For those who follow Big Ten basketball, this is such a devastating blow to a veteran-led Gophers squad. Lynch was putting up 10.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. But, the most impressive asset that he brought to the table for Pitino and company was his rim-protecting ability. Lynch was third in the nation in blocked shots at 4.13 per game. Minnesota loses over half of their team blocked shots per game (7.0), which is also third in the nation.

    Now, this loss was bad enough, but not too long after this news broke, it was announced that sophomore phenom Amir Coffey (14.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.5 apg) would miss an extended period of time with a shoulder injury. Although his injury is considered day-to-day, it is expected that he will miss multiple weeks due to the injury.

    So, within the matter of a couple of days, the Gophers lost two of their main players. After the Illinois game, the Golden Gophers lost three straight games. The losses have come at home against Indiana (75-71), at Northwestern (83-61), and at home against Purdue (81-47).

    Thankfully, the team responded well to snag a win over Penn State in their last game. Yet, there are still plenty of issues.

    It is quite evident that the Gophers are in huge trouble. Yes, they still have guys like Jordan Murphy (17.9 ppg, 11.7 rpg) and Nate Mason (15.2 ppg, 4.4 apg). But without Lynch and Coffey, this team is nowhere near the same.

    Since the loss of these two guys, the Gophers have really struggled to find any rhythm offensively. They have shot 42.4%, 30.9%, 30.9%, and 53.0% (the lone win) from the field in their last four games. This is a team that used to rank pretty high up there in scoring offense but have since dropped to No. 54 at 80.4 points per game. They also rank just eighth in the Big Ten in scoring at 72.4 points per game in conference play.

    The team will obviously get better when Coffey comes back, but it is still unclear when he will be able to make a return to action. Until then, Mason and Murphy are really going to have to step up and lead this team if they want to have any sort of success the rest of the season.

    As it stands now, Minnesota is in jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament if they don’t start to rattle off some wins in the near future. This is a team that was a 5-seed in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Gophers do have a couple of RPI top-50 wins (Alabama, at Providence), so they most certainly have a chance to make the dance. But the way they are playing now, their season is in big trouble if they don’t start to turn things around.

    The Gophers still must play all of the current top four conference teams (Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue) later on in the season. The time is now for Minnesota. They need wins and they need them fast to have a chance at an NCAA tournament berth.