Now that we have hit June and it looks like the shape of the roster is set for Gopher hoops, the number of significant question marks are really starting to come into focus.
1 - How do you replace the production of Jordan Murphy, Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer?
Frankly, you don’t. Those three Gophers combined for 306 starts in their careers. Last year they accounted for 56% of the team’s points and 46% of the team’s rebounds. While also being the complete focus of opposing defenses (particularly for Murphy and Coffey).
The team as a whole will still likely score roughly 70 points per game again this season. The actual points and rebounds will be replaced, but will the team have guys who were reliable? A go-to scorer? And most importantly, will they have a guy who can take over a game?
2 - Are Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu ready to be the focal points?
Somewhat related to the point above, Kalscheur and Oturu are likely going to be important guys to replace what was lost in Murphy and Coffey. They were very productive as true freshmen and their future is bright. But all of their production came as opposing Big Ten defenses put their best players on Coffey and Murphy. Will the soon-to-be freshmen be ready to be the focal points of the offense?
3 - What can we expect from the guys who sat out?
To be honest, the success of the season may rest on Marcus Carr and Payton Willis. The two transfer guards who have been with the team, they know the system, they know what to expect from the coaching staff, they are familiar with their teammates...are they ready to contribute in meaningful ways in the Big Ten?
If Carr can solve our point guard problems and Willis can be a solid secondary scorer (especially if he can hit threes), then this team starts to have some balance. It looks like a team that can beat you with different guys. If they are both “just guys” then I think you’ll see Oturu/Kalscheur experience some growing pains and the team will struggle to score.
4 - So many new guys, who steps up?
So many opportunities on this team to find a way to contribute. That may be contributing off the bench, which we rarely have in the Pitino era. Or it may be earning one of those vacant starting spots. There are three locks to start with Carr at point, Kalscheur at SG and Oturu as your center. But after that, there are opportunities and there are 5 brand new faces who could earn one of those spots.
Ideally you have a starter or two in this group AND you have a couple guys who can give you production off the bench. Alihan Demir is the likely candidate to start at PF, but we really know very little about him or if he’s going to beat out Eric Curry for the starting spot.
Ultimate Question - What are reasonable expectations for next year’s team?
When Coffey decided that he was not coming back, my expectations for this team took a major hit. Is there some talent on this team? Absolutely. And there is a chance for some depth and versatility on this team.
But there is so much that has to go right for this team to have similar success to last year’s team. With Coffey, this team has a chance to be a top-20 caliber team and if things go right, a Big Ten contender. A favored seed in the NCAA Tournament who isn’t sweating the bubble.
Instead, I think that this team still is an NCAA caliber team but one that is in constant bubble conversation. But just so many unknowns with this roster. And really this a quite a young roster. Your upper classmen are (basically) Michael Hurt and Eric Curry.
To be honest, I’m very excited about the 2020-21 team. But the 2019-20 team has blend a lot of new faces and answer even more questions.