The Gophers officially begin their season on Thursday when they play their first and only exhibition game against the hated Bemidji State Beavers. And while things appear to be finally settled from a personnel standpoint for the time being, there were a few twists and turns along the way as the team moved on from one of it’s worst seasons ever.
In case you tuned out during the summer months, there were a few notable story lines that played out since the final buzzer sounded in March. Let’s recap!
Reggie Lynch was cleared to play after suspension
The University of Minnesota mercifully reinstated Lynch and cleared him for all team activities after a lengthy suspension stemming from an arrest in May on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct.
Having sat out a year after transferring from Illinois State, Lynch was expected to play a major role in the team’s frontcourt as the starting center, but ran into trouble when the university continued an investigation into the summer, clouding his future.
What’s more, Lynch had to undergo rotator cuff surgery AND repair a torn meniscus in his knee in the offseason, though he’s expected to be fully recovered before the beginning of the season.
Long story short, Lynch is back and probably starting at center where he’ll be a welcome upgrade from the revolving door of warm bodies filling the position last year.
Akeem Springs joined the team as a grad transfer
Springs beat the Gophers last year as a member of UW-Milwaukee when the Panthers came to town. Now he’s donning maroon and gold as he joins the team as a graduate transfer. A 6-4 wing, Springs looks to fit in right away as a key contributor and scorer, having averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds per game last year.
Of course, nothing is ever as it seems. Just as Springs was being praised by Pitino for being an awesome teammate and great leader, he took to Twitter last week, posting a cryptic tweet saying, “Looks like my time in Minnesota may be shorter than I thought.” The tweet has since been deleted and things are supposedly cleared up, but still. Too much nonsense off the bat for comfort.
Davonte Fitzgerald is out all season with a torn his ACL
Never wanting for bad news, the Gophers were delivered their annual dose of awfulness when it was announced that Fitzgerald would miss the entire 2016-17 season after tearing up his knee in practice.
Already sitting out last year after transferring from Texas A&M, Fitzgerald was expected to fill a position of need for the Gophers at forward. Regardless of what Fitzgerald was bringing to the table, skills-wise, his absence thins out an already inexperienced frontcourt.
Kevin Dorsey and Charles Buggs skipped town
One went quietly, while the other was like a bull in a china shop, but at the end of the day both Charles Buggs and Kevin Dorsey decided to move on from Minnesota. Buggs decided to apply his graduate transfer eligibility and move to USC while Dorsey up and transferred to Colorado State after getting mixed up in the infamous sex tape scandal in his one year on campus.
Buggs was on the outskirts of the regular rotation last year and, though people often wanted to #FreeBuggs, he never seemed to achieve the level of success his flashes brilliance indicated he was capable of.
Dorsey, originally a four-star recruit, was expected to be a long-term solution at point guard but had trouble gaining traction in the lineup from day one. He played sporadically throughout the year and showed some flashes, but was largely inconsistent and mistake-prone on the court.
We got nice commitments for the 2017 recruiting class
The Gophers filled out their 2017 recruiting class nicely with commitments from four-star guard Isaiah Washington (N.Y.) and Jamir Harris (N.J.). Washington, an elite, playmaking point guard is ranked No. 62 by Rivals.com, No. 65 by Scout.com and 96th by ESPN and rose up the rankings after a great performance in the summer league circuit.
The Gophers beat out Stanford for Harris’ service, who is an excellent shooter. He shot 39 percent from deep over the summer in the Nike EYBL. He also played a couple years with Dupree McBrayer in high school.
Ed Conroy joined the coaching staff
Desperately in need of a veteran coaching presence on the bench the U hired Ed Conroy to replace Nate Pomeday, who’d left to become the associate commissioner for men’s basketball in the AAC. Conroy had most recently been the head coach of Tulane for six seasons. Prior to that he’d been the head coach of The Citadel where he led a decent turnaround of a historically bad program.