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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

What the Gophers men’s basketball team will look like next season

The Gophers have lost seven of their last eight games and will play four of their next five on the road. With the Big Ten schedule at its midway point, these upcoming games will be the game-changers for the men’s college basketball season.

Minnesota (11-8, 2-8 Big Ten) is going through the toughest period of the season — losses to No. 4 Purdue, No. 11 Wisconsin, and No. 16 Ohio State — and will play Iowa (14- 7, 4). -6) at 3:30 pm Sunday in Iowa City. U will be the underdog again against the Hawkeyes. Sledding at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena can be tricky, so let’s see next season.

The Gophers’ current roster is high-profile, so staff turnover will continue to be a dominant theme in head coach Ben Jonson’s second season in Dinkytown. Minnesota will lose four of its five starters (Payton Willis, Eric Curry, A. J. Stevens and Luke Lowe), its sixth man (Sean Sutherlin) and two substitutes (Charlie Daniels and Danny Ogele).

Minnesota will keep their top scorer in the Jamison Battle, bring back Isaiah Inen and Parker Fox from knee injuries that have kept them off the court this season, and freshmen Treyton Thompson and Abdoulaye Thiam will add a year of experience.

The Gophers currently have four high schoolers in their 2022 set – forwards Farrell Payne and Joshua Ola-Joseph, and defensemen Braden Carrington and Jayden Henley.

“The youth movement is real,” Johnson said. “You love young talent, but to stay competitive you have to have old jobs. I think we will definitely see it this year.”

After listing returning and returning players, Johnson asked the question, “What do we need?”

“We will probably look in the (transfer) portal,” he continued. “I think that again helped us a lot this year. It must be the right guy. If it turns out to be the right student, we won’t take it, but I think we’re going to look into the portal to get some experience. To find a guy who understands what we do and how we play.”

Johnson did not elaborate on how many additions might come through the portal or if the Gophers could attract more high school students.

“I think the downside of this year is that we don’t have Isaiah and Parker; the advantage is that they are a year older and have gone through our program quite a bit,” Johnson said. “We got these guys back, so that’s good. It helps with youth.”

The return of Battle is the biggest source of optimism for Gophers. The 6-foot-7 linebacker, who has two more years after this season, currently leads the team with 17.8 points per game and is second behind Curry with 6.4 rebounds. In addition, he becomes a more vocal leader and spokesperson for the program.

On Friday, Johnson shared that he wants Battle to improve this offseason.

“The main thing this offseason is to continue to work on your body, gain strength,” Johnson said. “He has already done a lot of work, but the question is how far can you go. It will be #1: conditioning.”

The same attention to the gym will be needed for Thompson, who was a four-star rookie and flashed in games, but at 7-foot-210, he needs to get stronger and physically fit to make it through the Big Ten. The transfer portal can be a place for reinforcements in the paint.

But as Battle continues to top the scouting records of other teams, his evolution as a scorer will be vital in 2022-23.

“Then I think we need to keep developing different ways to score points,” Johnson said of Battle’s needs going forward. “I think he did a good job, not only is he catching and shooting, but now you can score a little better in the standing position? Can you score bounce? And when you lead him, lead him not only to score, but also to relieve. Can you do some work as a playmaker?”

SHORT

Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Sunday’s game. Assistant Billy Taylor will serve as acting head coach against the Gophers. … The Gophers’ key moment against Iowa will be finding a way to slow down 6-foot-8 NBA prospect Keegan Murray, who ranks fifth in the nation with 22.3 points per game. Johnson said the Gophers would give Murray various defensive schemes, probably some sort of zone, and throw various defenders at him to fill his space. … Minnesota’s NET ranking dropped to 90th; Iowa is ranked 24th. … Minnesota’s busy schedule is partly due to Pennsylvania State’s road game being pushed back from Jan. 19 to Feb. 17. It was delayed due to COVID-19 in the Minnesota team. … In the last four games, Lowe has shot 45 percent from the field; he had thrown 20 percent in four games before. … The Gophers were 20 points behind in their first game against Iowa at Williams Arena on Jan. 16, but cut the Hawkeyes’ lead to 72–68 with 2:47 left, leading to an 81– 71. In that game, Murray had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

World Nation News Desk
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