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Gopher Basketball: The Young and the Depthless

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Last week the University announced that they would not medically clear Jarvis Johnson to play basketball for the Gophers.  This decision, now maybe a controversial one, is one that has some interesting and significant ramifications for next year's Gopher hoops squad.

The fact that Gopher basketball was going to be rather young and inexperienced next year is nothing new, and the Johnson decision does not change that as he would have just added to the youth movement.  When the Gophers hit the floor next Fall they will be very short on scholarship upper-classmen.

  • Seniors - 2
  • Juniors - 1
  • Sophomores - 3 (plus 2 more sitting out due to transfer rules)
  • Freshmen - 4

Ten players for a full season?  Might be time to get to know the walk-ons.

Again, we already knew this and to some degree this was cause for optimism.  Richard Pitino would be able to mold this young core of kids that he brought in, to execute his system and after a year or getting used to the Big Ten we might have a talented team with which to compete.  The loss of Johnson is a blow not only because he was one of the kids we were most looking forward to seeing on The Barn floor, but also because now depth is looking like it will be a real problem.

When you look at the numbers above, what quickly jumps out at you is the fact that 70% of the roster is a sophomore or younger.  But I'd also like to point out that we have just 10 scholarship players available to play next year.  Reggie Lynch and Davonte Fitzgerald will be on the Gopher roster next year but unable to participate due to NCAA transfer rules.  Their two scholarships count towards the 13 scholly limit and with the loss of Johnson, that leaves the staff with just 10 scholarship players to work with.  Of those 10...four have never played a minute of Big Ten basketball and one has yet to log 100 minutes (Gaston Diedhiou has played just 68 minutes as a Gopher).

Ten players for a full season?  Might be time to get to know the walk-ons.

Ten players can be enough as long as everything goes according to plan.  And by according to plan I mean that all four of the true freshmen prove themselves capable of contributing AND everyone remains healthy.  The rotation will be thin and the margin for error is razor thin, I am a little concerned.  There were several questions facing this team before the Johnson announcement.  Now getting answers to those questions are amplified and the ramifications of losing Johnson creates more.

  1. Development of Konate and Diedhiou. Will they take big steps forward to be productive Big Ten big men?
  2. Who plays center behind Konate?
  3. What kind of production will we get out of Buggs and King at PF?
  4. Will Carlos Morris improve shot selection and defense?
  5. Who plays point, especially backup point? (Does this mean Dorsey needs to come off the bench?)
  6. Can McBrayer contribute right away and take up solid minutes at SG?  Does he start?
  7. Will one of the incoming forwards (Murphy or Gilbert) be able to redshirt?

Questions 1-4 were there before, 5-7 are either new or much more important ones now.  Does losing one guy make that big of a difference?  Yes, when the assumption is that he was going to be a significant contributor immediately and he was part of the plan for the future...yes it does.

I think the two biggest things for this team heading into next year are health and getting contributions from the freshmen.  Getting both of those is going to be asking a lot.