Think losing Damien Johnson for 4 to 6 weeks is no big deal? Think again.
Heading into last season, expectations for Johnson were low. But by season's end, Johnson was Minnesota's most tenacious rebounder, best shot blocker and best defender. Sure, some of you will point to the sexier part of basketball--offense--and suggest the Gophers can easily replace him.
But even on offense, where Johnson was growing all season, he was the team's best offensive rebounder. Don't believe me? Take a look at Ken Pomeroy's scouting report for the Gophers. And Johnson wasn't just good defensively, he was great. Again looking at Pomeroy's stats, Johnson was 21st in the nation in steal percentage and led the team (74th nationally) in block percentage. He was a defensive difference-maker with the ability to man-up a perimeter player and a banger inside. How many more points per game would Minnesota have allowed last year if it wasn't for Johnson making defensive plays?
And I think we'd all do well to remember how Minnesota won 20 games last year. It wasn't because Tubby Smith installed a well-oiled offense. No, when Minnesota was clicking it was when they were forcing turnovers, playing help-side defense with intentsity. Johnson was a major part of all of that.
It's impossible at this moment to compare Johnson to any of the team's newcomers. We don't know yet what kind of defensive players Paul Carter or Devron Bostick will be. For most of the non-conference schedule, the Gophers should be able do get by without Johnson. But come Big Ten season, the Gophers will need him.
- Tim Brewster apparently has a secret about how to win after the bye week. He's not telling what it is. In all seriousness, that ESPN blog post indicates again how secretive the Brewster regime is being this season. Injuries are kept quiet. And this week's schedule is apparently off limits. Interesting.
- MGO is convinced Bryce McNeal is gone and not returning to Ann Arbor. Brian says "lame." I say changing of the times.
- The Denver Post did a small write-up on new Minnesota football commit, tight end Kendall Gregory-McGhee.
- Not much else today .... stay tuned for Rodent Recruiting this afternoon. We'll look at newcomers on the Wisconsin and Indiana basketball roster's coming to a gym near you this fall.