I’m in a real conundrum. See, I absolutely love college basketball. Overall, I love it more than anything else. And I very much look forward to watching Gopher hoops over 5+ months of the year.
But the roster turnover for this year’s team and the extremely low expectations have made the anticipation for this year’s college basketball season rather unusual for me. Am I excited for tonight when I can pull up the ESPN app to watch Saint Peters vs VCU followed by Pepperdine and Rice? You bet I am. But can I muster the same level of enthusiasm to catch the Gophers and Roos? Not really, even if they were available to watch (which I could pay $20 for November and December so I could watch 4 Gopher games, but I think I’ll pass).
The low expectations, massive roster turnover and expected poor record have been well-documented for the Gophers. Sports Illustrated ranked all 358 college basketball teams and they had the Gophers at 141st with only 3 teams from a Power 5 conference ranked below them.
We get it, this is not going to be a banner year for Gopher basketball. This is a year where the expectations have never been lower and earning 4 or 5 conference wins will seem like a successful season.
So if not wins, what should we really be looking for this year? Well that’s what today’s bonus perspective is all about.
Style of Play
This is probably the thing I am most interested to see. Ben Johnson has been asked about his style of play but he usually responds with talking about intangibles like toughness and playing together. But I want to know what kind of offense are we running, same on defense, what do they do to get open shots? Are they consistently taking bad shots?
Really I don’t care what the results or stats of this offense is, I want to have an understanding of what they are trying to do?
In college hoops, especially if you aren’t just able to out-recruit your peers, I am a huge fan of a system on offense. A very specific plan on offense to get the kind of shots or possessions that you want. Will very much be keen on seeing how this looks for Ben Johnson.
This team is not overly talented, but I would be very excited if we see that Ben Johnson is able to get them to play well TOGETHER. The classic “sum of parts greater than the whole” idea. Do they pass well? Do they maintain proper spacing on offense and get the ball to the guy who has the best shot? How does Dave Thorson have these guys playing team defense?
If (IF) they play well together on both (or either) ends of the floor, it bodes very well for this coaching staff. Imagine being able to get your team to play like a well-oiled machine and then you add more talent to the roster!
Player development and seeing the team improve throughout the season will be key. There is an exciting recruiting class coming in next year, along with likely adding a couple key transfers.
What I want to see is how the guys on this year’s roster improve. It not only will be an indication about the ability of this staff to develop talent, but it if they are successful in this area it will make next year’s team all the more dangerous.
The record really is irrelevant this season. Getting more than 3 or 4 Big Ten wins should be considered a great success. And even if they go 0-fer the Big Ten, who cares. Ben Johnson was not hired for 2021-22.
That’s important to never lose sight of. Ben Johnson was not hired for the 2021-22 season. Sure we want to win and have an entertaining product on the floor to watch, but he was hired to recruit well, bring in talent and eventually put a winning product on the floor.
This is extremely unlikely this year. Do not fret, do not put too much stock in what you see as an indicator for the future. When you hire a new coach and the entire roster leaves, it is going to take time.