It is so hard to get all that excited about next basketball season, especially when this one is still being played. But with the recent play of the young Gophers and now the news that the NCAA is giving Trevor Mbakwe another year, it is hard not to start dreaming of NCAA Tournament wins (not NIT ones) about this time next year. In addition to the season being months away, as Gopher fans we should all know that unforeseen circumstances can happen between now and next fall that may negatively impact the 2012-13 season.
But for now we are going to be excited about the possibilities for the following reasons...
1 - Trevor Mbakwe is coming back. I am not going to let you forget that Mbakwe was a preseason All-Big Ten selection. We are returning a 12 point and 10 rebound per game guy, but Mbakwe is more than that. He is explosive and nasty in the lane. He gets opponents into foul trouble and I think with the increased scoring capabilities of Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams he is only going to be more dangerous because teams have more to focus on.
2 - Andre Hollins is coming into his own as a go-to scorer. Never has Mbakwe had a reliable perimeter scorer, he will have that next year. Mbakwe will not be relied upon to be the team's primary scorer, in fact it is very possible he is the team's third leading scorer next season. Hollins is stepping up his game and I anticipate over the course of the offseason he begins to exert himself as an on-the-court leader.
3 - Rodney Williams is finally living up to his potential. Mbakwe's injury may have been the best thing to happen for Rodney Williams' career. It will be interesting to see what position he ends up playing next season. Will Tubby move him back to SF where Rodney will have to play if he wants to play professionally? Or will Rodney remain at PF where he has been so successful? Interesting but there is no denying how much Rodney has improved this year and much will be expected of him next.
4 - There is a deep, solid and well-balanced supporting cast. Julian Welch is capable of scoring, Austin Hollins is very good defensively as well as a good shooter, Elliott Eliason is also very good defensively while growing on offense, Joe Coleman is a physical G/F who is great at getting to the rim and the foul line.
We are going to have three reliable scorers and a supporting cast of shooters, drivers and defenders. I am willing to bet this is going to be the most successful team of the Tubby Smith era. So much can happen between now and mid-October both negatively (transfers, injuries) and positively (Trent Lockett anyone?). But this is exciting news. Looking forward to the NIT Final Four with an eye towards next season!