2008 Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball Preview
The Golden Gophers of Minnesota (20-14 overall, 8-10 Big Ten) have struggled over the years to get to the NCAA Tournament. In the past five seasons, they have gone to the Big Dance once, the NIT twice and nowhere two times. Head coach Tubby Smith starts his second season with this team and the Gophers of Minnesota should show a modicum of improvement.
Upfront two freshmen, Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III, will see playing time immediately. Iverson, who stands six-foot-ten, is strong and tough. His skills need a lot of refinement, but he should create a post presence immediately, Sampson, who stands six-foot-eleven, is a gifted athlete and the son of the former Virginia star. Six-foot-nine, forward/center Jon Williams (13.1 MPG, 3.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 45.6 FG%, 40.6 FT%), now a senior, shows better-than-average rebounding chops, but his shot is deficient. The frontcourt lacks depth and that’s a big problem for the Gophers.
Point guard Al Nolen (22.6 MPG, 4.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 32.7 FG%, 76.2 FT%) is a good ball handler, but the team now needs the sophomore to become a playmaker and leader. Nolen has to start playing more aggressively for this team to win. Junior guard Lawrence Westbrook (23.5 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 42.0 FG%, 79.8 FT%), who returns as the team’s top scorer, can play either spot but will see the most work at the shooting position. Transfer Devon Bostick, who was Junior College Player of the Year in 2007-2008, will certainly see a lot of playing time and may start at the wing spot.
Last year, the Minnesota Golden Gophers lost to Maryland 68-58
in round one of the NIT. The club looks to be NIT bound again. In
2008-2009, they could possibly attain a winning conference record.
The Gophers will certainly overall win more than they lose. The
NCAA Tournament is probably a season away, but an upset or two could
propel this club to the Big Dance. The Golden Gophers are a solid
Big Ten team in the making.