Big-Ten Preview

I am sorry I have been away so long.

I have been working all week on a Preview of Big-Ten Men’s basketball which is going to be on CBS Sportlines.

Click here to get the first part on Bleacher Report. I broke the preview into three articles because there is too much info.

If you would like to go to CBS College Basketball-just click the title.

ACC Men’s Basketball 2008-09 Conference Preview – Part Two: 7 – 9

Conference Rank: 7
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Head Coach: Paul Hewwitt
2007-08 Recap: 15-17 (7-9 ACC)

2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: G – 6-5 Anthony Marrow, F – 6-8 Jeremis Smith, F – 6-10 Ra’Sean Dickey,
G – 6-0 Matt Causey
Key Additions: G – 6-4 Fr. Iman Shumpert, F/C – 6-9 Sr. Bassirou Dieng
Starting Line-up

G – Maurice Miller So. 6-1 8.1ppg, 3.3 apg
G – Lewis Clinch Sr. 6-3 9 ppg, 1.9 rpg
F – D’Andre Bell Sr. 6-5 6.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg
F – Gani Lawal So. 6-8 7.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg
F – Zack Peacock Jr. 6-8 9.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg

42.3 points per game and 19.4 rebounds are gone and so is the last player from the 2004 Final Four Team. The Yellow Jackets still have plenty of depth and experience to make-up the difference.

Lewis Clinch is the leading returning scorer from last season who came off the bench. Clinch will have to do more than just shot to stay on the court, his defense is a well known issue.

Along with Clinch, Maurice Miller will be the focus of the offense and will give them steady play at the point in his second season.

The front court lost a lot of talent, but will have enough left over to be competitive. D’Andre Bell is the team’s defensive stopper and will not be ask to do much more than that.

A pair of 6-8 forwards will be the focus of the teams low-post attack. Zack Peacock should be a double-double threat every game and will take the leadership role. Gani Lawal will give the Yellow Jackets a mismatch with his length and athletic ability.

Senior forward 6-10 Alade Aminu will see plenty of time backing-up both big men and McDonald’s All-American freshman guard Iman Shumpert will see minutes doing the same for the guards.


It is rare for a team to have so much of their production gone and yet still have a team that will compete. I would expect Paul Hewitt’s team to struggle defensively in the early part of the season, but should be able to put points on the board. The Yellow Jackets have a even mix of veterans and talented youngsters and this year should build momentum for next year. Even if they don’t make the NCAA Tournament.

Conference Rank: 8
Boston College Eagles
Head Coach: Al Skinner
2007-08 Recap: 14-17 (4-12 ACC)

2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: F – 6-6 Shamari Spears, C – 6-11 Tyrelle Blair
Key Additions: F – 6-8 So. Joe Trapani, G – 6-3 Fr. Reggie Jackson, G – 6-5 Fr. Dallas Elmore
Starting Line-up

G – Biko Paris 6-1 So. 5.7ppg, 2.9 apg
G – Tyrese Rice 6-1 Sr. 21 ppg, 5.0 apg
F – Rakim Sanders 6-5 So. 11.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F – Joe Trapani 6-8 So. 11.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg
C – Josh Southern 6-10 So. 5.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg

The recent glory days of Craig Smith and Jared Dudley seem so long ago. Tyrese Rice came to Boston with All-Americans in front of him and know he is a senior and he as a lot talent being him. But Rice is the undeniable leader.

Biko Paris showed last season he is capable of being a point guard in the ACC. With the Paris running the point, Rice will be able to run off picks to get open shots.

After a up and down freshmen season, Rakim Sanders is set for a break out sophomore season. And if the Eagles want to make any noise in the ACC, he will need to be more consistent.

Big man Josh Southern will see more playing time and might just pan out to be a high quality big man. To do that, he needs to stay out of foul trouble.

Vermont transfer Joe Trapani will bring some toughness around the basket and will be asked to do more scoring than Southern. Junior Tyler Roche must help out on the glass the same way he is able to provide long range shooting and scoring.


Rice will get scoring help from Sanders and he will get help with ball handling from Paris. But don’t expect everything to be nice and balanced at all times. The offense will still depend on Rice. The Eagles a step closer to returning to the “glory days” than they were last season, but the NIT looks like a strong possibility.

Conference Rank: 9
Maryland Terrapins
Head Coach: Gary Williams
2007-08 Recap: 19-15 (8-8 ACC)

2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: F – 6-8 James Gist, F – 6-8 Bambale Osby
Key Additions: G – 6-4 Fr. Sean Mosley, F – 6-8 Fr. Jin Soo Kim (waiting approval)
Starting Line-up

G – Greivis Vasquez 6-6 Jr. 17 ppg, 6.8 apg
G – Eric Hayes 6-4 Jr. 9.9 ppg, 4.5 apg
G – Landon Milbourne 6-7 So. 8.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg
F – Jerome Burney 6-9 So. 1.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg
C – Braxton Dupree 6-8 So. 2.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg

At 6-6 Greivis Vasquez was an interesting match-up at point guard for most teams last season, but he will not play the point as much as this season. The ACC assist leader is an emotional roller coaster and this team better hang-on.

Eric Hayes, the second highest returning scorer after Vasquez, will take on a larger scoring load and will be the primary ball handler.

The Terrapins lost their two best post players in James Gist and Bambale Osby. Trying to find suitable replacements will be difficult. Braxton Dupree will be the first option for Maryland, if he can control is weight. Jerome Burney, one time Miami signee, played only 7.4 minutes a game and did not give him much to prove himself. He will have a chance this year.

Maryland will run a three guard offense with Landon Milbourne as the big guard. Shooting 39% is a decent start for him and hopes are he will get better as he gets more looks.

The wild card in the whole mix is Jin Soo Kim. This South Korean is an athletic player that could potentially play 3 positions, if the NCAA Clearinghouse allows. If approved, Kim would add minutes and scoring off the bench and make a push to the starting line-up.


This season could be Gary Williams last. 2002 seems like a lifetime ago and the Terrapins have only made the NCAA Tournament three out of the last six seasons. Much of this team’s success falls on Vasquesz and how Williams decides to use him. Keeping at the point is not productive when he does not have proven options to pass to. Look for him to be off the ball more and Hayes to initiate the offense. The big men need to prove themselves, because next season’s recruits will challenge from day one.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Preseason All-Americans

What do you look for when trying to put together a preseason All-American team? Is it just name recognition and the uniform they wear? Is it the players who will be the best pro prospects, or the players who will have the best college season?

I feel it is a combo of all those points, plus a look at their production from last season and changes to the team that will affect the roles these players assume and ultimately their productivity.

There are two or three players that are guaranteed first team All-Americans. After those players, it really is up to personal preference. Each player is talented, skilled, and is a winner—and each will have a large influence on the 2008-09 college basketball landscape.

All-American First Team
Tyler HansbroughNorth Carolina 6-9 Sr. Forward 22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg
After UNC fell short of the National Championship there was no doubt Hansbrough would come back for his senior season because his trophy case is missing the most important one.

His work ethic and team first mentality gives him a chance at being the first four-time first-team All-American. He could also break J.J. Reddick’s ACC scoring record – and the rebounding record as well.

I have never seen a player with the ability like Hansbrough to make so many tough shots after the contact.

Stephan Curry – Davidson 6-2 Jr. Guard 25.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg
There is very little the Stephan Curry has to do to make this list. After leading Davidson to an incredible run to the Sweet Sixteen last season, the expectations will be very high and teams will key on Curry.

He will be tested early as Davidson will face another tough non-conference schedule and he will take over at point guard. Having the ball in his hands more this season could mean his scoring takes a slight dip.

Curry plays for a small school in North Carolina, but any big school in the state would gladly add him to their starting line-up.

Blake Griffin – Oklahoma 6-10 So. Forward 14.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg
Unlike Hansbrough, many were surprised to see Blake Griffin announce he would come back to wear the Sooner jersey. Griffin would have been a top five pick in the last NBA draft, and minus a complete disaster, should be top two next June.
Last season Griffin showed what an elite athlete he is, and the Big 12 better watch out as his game continues to expand.

Darren CollisonUCLA 6-1 Sr. Guard 14.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg
After missing the first six games of last season, Collison was able to pick right back up and provide the steady play as the Bruins ran to the Final Four. With the departure of Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook to the NBA, Collison will have the opportunity to demonstrate the whole of his talent.
UCLA will rely on Collison even more this season if they hope to return to the Final Four as they have in his first three seasons.

Luke HarangodyNotre Dame 6-8 Jr. Forward 20.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg
Imagine having a front court with Luke Harangody and Hansbrough. No loose ball will go “unhustled” for. Like Hansbrough, Harangody is more skilled than people give him credit. As an athletic monster, you do not expect him to make the basketball plays he does. Opposing teams will plan to stop him, but that does not mean they will.

With Notre Dame needing more production then last season, he is guaranteed to better his numbers and repeat as the Big East Player of the Year.

Chase Budinger Arizona 6-7 Jr. Forward 17.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg
After a year of uncertainty, this team will finally be Chase Budinger’s team. With his shooting ability and insane vertical, the Wildcat offense will revolve around Budinger and his numbers will go up – and he could come back next year.

James Harden – Arizona State 6-4 So. Guard 17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg
ASU has a lottery pick coming back for a second season. He slashes through defenses and has the complete offense package. Harden is a hard worker and is extremely skilled. He will lead the highly ranked Sun Devils againist a very top heavy PAC-10.

Patrick Patterson – Kentucky 6-8 So. Forward 16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Everything about Patrick Pattersons game is solid. After he fell to injury for the last five games of the season, I would expect him to come out with drive to prove that he is worth the hype. There is no reason he should not average a double-double and will lead the Wildcats into March Madness.

Hasheem ThabeetConnecticut 7-3 Jr. 10.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.5 blk
UConn has not had a defensive anchor of this quality since Emeka Okafor in 2004. He is not the most athletic player you will see this season, but his defensive influence on each game just proves what a standout player he could be. Since he has only been playing basketball for a few years, he will only get better.

A.J. Abrams – Texas 5-11 Sr. Guard 16.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg
Like Curry, A.J. Abrams lost a talented point guard and will have to take over the role until others prove worthy. But I would not expect him to be shy about taking his shots. The Longhorns are talented but inexperienced in the backcourt so they will rely on Abrams to do what he does best, score.

Third team
Sam Young – Pittsburgh 6-6 Sr. Forward 18.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Ty Lawson – North Carolina 5-11 Jr. Guard 12.7 ppg, 5.2 apg
Tyler Smith – Tennessee 6-7 Jr. Forward 13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg
BJ Mullens
Ohio State 7-0 Fr. Center 27.4 ppg, 15.1 rpg (Senior Season in High School)
Robert Vaden UAB 6-5 Sr. Guard 21.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg

ACC Men’s Basketball Conference Preview – The Bottom Three

The Atlantic Coastal Conference is always in the argument of which conference plays the best basketball. And rightfully so. With schools such as; UNC, Duke, Wake Forrest, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Clemson, Maryland and Florida State, the ACC houses many good teams and a number of NBA prospects that reside on the East Coast.

I will take a look at the ACC in four groups – in each group I will give a snapshot of three schools and preview their teams. I will start with the bottom three and work are way up to
North Carolina – we all know they are the best.

Once we have finished our team preview, I will give you my All ACC-Team as well as my predictions for the individual awards.

The Bottom Three

Conference Rank: 10
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Head Coach: Sydney Lowe
2007-08 Record: 15-16 (4-12 ACC)

2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: F – 6-8 J.J Hickson, F – 6-8 Gavin Grant
Key Additions: G – 6-2 Fr. Julius Mays , F – 6-5 Fr. C.J. Williams
Starting Line-Up
G – Farnold Degand Jr. 6-3 6.9 ppg, 3.2 apg
G – Courtney Fells Sr. 6-6 10.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg
G – Tracy Smith Jr. 6-5 3.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg
F – Brandon Costner Jr. 6-9 8.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F – Ben McCauley Sr. 6-9 6.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg
J.J Hickson’s early exit and Gavin Grants graduation leaves a large gap (27.9 ppg and 13 rpg) in the front court of the Wolfpack starting line-up. Brandon Costner will have to return to the form of his Sophomore season and Ben McCauley will just have to be better and assume some leadership on a young and inexperienced team.
Courtney Fells shot 45% from behind the arc and he might need to find other ways to score if Costner and McCauley can not pick-up the slack.
Point guard play will be an adventure for the Wolfpack. Farnold Degand started strong, but feel to injury and Javie Gonzalez had a hard time competing in his freshmen year. Look for a combination of Degand, Gaonzalez, and freshmen Julius Mays. Mays will see plenty of minutes and could crack the starting line-up if there are problems.
The short-term does not look good for the Wolfpack. Head Coach Sydney Lowe is only three games over .500 at NC State and this team will not help improve his record. If Costner and McCauley struggle, so will NC State. If the point guards struggle, so will NC State. If they all struggle, the will be hard pressed to win 10 games.

Conference Rank: 11
Florida State Seminoles
Head Coach: Leonard Hamilton

2007-08 Record: 19-15 (7-9 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: G – 6-3 Jason Rich, G – 6-3 Ralph Mims, G – 6-2 Isaiah Swann, F/C – 6-10 Julain Vaighn, F – 6-7 Matt Zitani
Key Additions: F – 6-9 Fr. Chris Singleton, G – 6-5 Fr. Luke Loucks, F – 6-4 So. Derwin kitchen

Starting Line-Up
G – Toney Douglas Sr. 6-1 15.4 ppg, 2.8 apg
G – Derwin Kitchen So. 6-4
F – Chris Singleton Fr. 6-4
F – Uche Echefu Sr. 6-8 10 ppg, 7.3 rpg
C – Solomon Alabi Fr. 7-1 3.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg

Everyone jump on Toney Douglas’ shoulders. Having lost 42 points a game and 15 rebounds a game, the Seminoles will need Douglas to lead this team and up his 15 ppg.

Uche Echefu is the only other returning starter from last season and should have the opportunity to be a double-double threat every game.
Chris Singleton is a McDonalds’s All-American who has the ability to shoot the three and get to the rim. He will be asked to contribute from the beginning of the season.
After missing 10 games last season, Solomon Alabi was granted a medical hardship and he retains his freshmen status. Alabi’s ability to get off the floor will affect the Seminoles at both ends of the court, but his skills will be needed more on the defensive end.
All-American junior college transfer Derwin Kitchen should provide solid play at the point, allowing Douglas to move to his natural position of shooting guard.
Watch out for Luke Loucks. At 6-5, he is a mismatch at point guard and has no problem distributing the ball. He should come off the bench but might also challenge for the starting spot.
Rebuilding? Yes. Time to abandon ship? Not yet. This Florida State team will win a couple games and should give a game to the teams at the top of the conference. Do not wait for them to make a run into the NCAA tournament, but should settle back nicely into the NIT. The only way to go is up for FSU.
Conference Rank: 12
Virginia Cavaliers
Head Coach: Dave Leitao
2007-08 Record: 17-16 (5-11 ACC)
2008-09 Roster

Key Losses: G – 6-0 Sean Singletary, F – 6-7 Adrian Joseph, F – 6-8 Laurynas Mikalauskas
Key Additions: G – 6-6 Fr. Sylven Landesberg, C – 7-0 Fr. Assane Sene, C – 6-11 Fr. John Brandenburg

Starting Line-up
G – Jeff Jones Sr. 6-4 4.8 ppg,
G – Sammy Zeglinski Fr. 6-0 8.6 ppg, 2.3 apg
F – Mamadi Diane Sr. 6-5 11.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg
F – Mike Scott So. 6-8 5.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg
F – Jamil Tucker Jr. 6-8 5.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg

The Virginia Caviliers will rely heavily on freshmen to support Mamadi Diane as he takes over the leadership role left by Sean Singletary. Diane’s scoring will no doubt increase with more shots that will come his way.

Jeff Jones’ production should go up given he will have more chances, but he needs to increase his three-point shooting which was only 36 percent.

Then only frontcourt returning player is Mike Scott. At 6-8 he is a strong rebounder who will need to score more.
Jamil Tucker is a physical presence who will see more time and Sammy Zeglinski will start at the point after an injury filled season. He has excellent ball handling skills and is quick of the dribble.
Look for freshmen Sylven Landesberg to take a hold of the sixth man spot and work his way into the starting line-up.
The Cavs only won 5 ACC games with Sean Singletary. What are they going to do with out him? I am hoping that the team will lift it’s game to make-up the production void left by the star – like Texas did when Kevin Durant left. You know what I mean – I do not expect them to break .500, but could play the spoiler. This team is young and will be experimenting with tatics and variations of line-ups to help solidify next season.
Next Up: Teams 7 – 9

Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball 2008-09 Preview

Duke may have overachieved in the first half of last season, starting 21-1, then they either under achieved or played exactly like they were supposed to in the second half, finishing the season 6-5 and exiting the NCAA Tournament in the second round with a lose to West Virginia.
Going into the start of last season, there were many questions about Duke’s roster. Could junior point guard Greg Paulus show leadership and composure? How will Duke fair with its lack of quality big men? Can Duke’s offense be effective with the new “spread and launch” approach?

Some of those same questions apply to the 2008-09 season.

Duke lost its leading scorer and rebounder from last season in DeMarcus Nelson to the NBA and 6’6” freshmen Taylor King transferred to Villanova. But the Blue Devils brought in the 23rd rank recruiting class, headlined by McDonalds All-American guard Elliot Williams.

2007-08 Recap Record: 28-6 (13-3 ACC)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament – Lost in 2nd Round to West Virginia 73-67

Statistical Leaders
Points per game: G – DeMarcus Nelson – 14.5
Rebounds per game: G – DeMarcus Nelson and F – Kyle Singler– 5.8
Assists per game: G – Greg Paulus – 3.2

Key Players Out
DeMarcus Nelson 14.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 2.9 apg, and 1.5 steals pg
Taylor King 5.5 ppg, 2 rpg, 38% 3pt

Key Returning Players
Kyle Singler 13.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg
Gerald Henderson 12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 blocks pg
Jon Scheyer 11.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.4 steals pg, 38% 3pt
Greg Paulus 11.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 42% 3pt
Nolan Smith 5.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 39% 3pt

Key Players In
Olek Czyz F 6-7 240 Freshman Reno, Nevada Reno
Miles Plumlee F 6-10 220 Freshman Warsaw, Indiana Christ School (NC)
Elliot Williams G 6-4 180 Freshman Memphis, Tennessee St. George’s

The Duke front court could be separated into two groups; Kyle Singler and everyone else. The expectations and skill set for the two groups will be vastly different. Singler will carry the majority of shots and scoring for the frontcourt, while the other group will focus on defense and rebounding.

2007-08 ACC Rookie of the Year Singler, leads a very thin and inexperienced front line for the Blue Devils. Singler showed leadership and the ability to play in the ACC last season, but needs to become a better defender and shot blocker if he wants to lead Duke to the Final Four.

Miles Plumlee, whose brother Mason is a five star recruit committed to Duke for the 09 season, will bring shoot blocking Singler is currently lacking and has the potential to develop into a solid player on both ends of the floor. He needs to add strength to his thin, lanky frame.
Freshmen Olek Ozyz is a Poland native who went to high school in Nevada. He comes to campus already breed with the “Duke hustle”, athleticism, and the toughness the front court was missing last season.

6’8” Junior Lance Thomas started 28 games last season, and is this most experienced front court player on the roster, and will compete for the starting spot. He is athletic and plays tough defense and, like Singler, will guard players taller than him.

Look for Coach K to try and plug-in 7’1” Brian Zoubek into the starting line-up when the match-up calls for it, but he needs to stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble. Zoubek will not do much offensively, his focus will be defense.

David McClure is the only other player that saw meaningful minutes last season. He might be pushed closer to the end of the bench by Plumlee and Czyz, but when he comes in, he bring the typical Duke tenacity.

Unlike the frontcourt, the backcourt has a wealth of talent that is able to do everything. Greg Paulus has been in the starting line-up since early his freshmen year and Coach K will put the ball in the senior’s hands again this season. Look for Paulus to increasing his scoring through an even better selection.

Nolen Smith had a better than expected freshmen year. Duke was able to take Paulus out of the game and still have a very good ball handler in the game to direct the offense. That was something lacking two seasons ago. Smith should see more time as Coach K looks to develop Smith to take over the point next season. He will have greater opportunity to be creative in the offense but needs to step up on defense to help support Paulus who is poor on the ball defender.

If there is a Duke player on the verge of breaking out this season, it is junior G/F Gerald Henderson. With Nelson gone, Henderson will be the only player left with the ability to create his own shot. There is very little he can’t do offensively. He is able to get to the rim – and finish – and his mid-range jumper has become more consistent each season. When Duke is shooting poorly from behind the arc, the Blue Devils will need Henderson to create one on one.

The only on possible option to create shots outside the spread and kick attack, is five star recruit Elliot Williams. Williams is an explosive athlete. Like Henderson, Williams is able to get to the rim and finish in traffic. His height and ability to play either guard spot will lead to match-up problems and will allow the Blue Devils to play many different line-ups. It is tough to say if we will start or not, but he will see plenty of minutes.

Sixth man and three point specialist John Scheyer has the ability to spread the court. Last season he showed moments that his game has developed passed just being a stand still shooter. Either way, when he is on the court the defense has to be aware.

Interior play is still a weakness for this team. Coach K will have to address this issue from the beginning of practice. This season there will be more options on offense. Duke will come at teams with barrage of threes in the spread offense and off the pick and roll with any of the guards and Singler.

Duke’s offense will create problems for the opposing team’s zone defense. If you drop the zone too far into the lane, it will allow for wide open looks behind the arc. But if you keep the zone stretched to guard against the three, the lane will be open for Duke’s quards get to the rim.

The Blue Devils will never be a “sleeper”, but with all the focus on the UNC Tarheels, Duke will not get national attention of their rivals from Tobacco Road and that is just fine with Duke.
With Duke returning many key players – 83% of their scoring – and the addition of depth and height of the freshmen class, look to the Blue Devils to once again compete for the ACC title and make a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament.

STARTING LINE-UP G Paulus, G Williams, G/F Henderson, F Singler, F Thomas

G Scheyer, G Smith, C Zoubek, F/C Plumlee, F Czyz, F McClure

Minnesota Golden Gophers Men’s 2008-09 Basketball Preview

In Tubby Smith’s first season coaching the Golden Gophers, they won 20 games. With his first recruiting class, they almost cracked the top 20 (25 on Can anyone say Immediate Impact? In his first full year at the University of Minnesota, Smith changed the culture of college basketball and the players bought in from the beginning. Winning 20 games was even more proof that hiring Smith was the greatest coaching hire in U of MN history.

Moving into the 2008-09 season, the natural step in this Smith revolution is higher expectations. Minnesota is the new “it pick” in the Big Ten with many experts picking them in the top third of the league. With a good core of returning players with; sophomore guards Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber, juniors forward Damian Johnson, and guard Lawrence Westbrook, the Gophers had added a talented recruiting class that adds quality depth, something lacking in previous seasons.
2007-08 Recap

Record: 20-14 (8-10 in Big Ten)

2007-08 Statistical Leaders
Points per game: G – Lawrence McKenzie – 11.8
Rebounds per game: F/C –Dan Coleman – 5.8
Assists per game: G – Al Nolen – 3.5

Key Players Out:
Lawrence McKenzie, Guard (11.8 ppg and 2.6 apg)
Dan Coleman, Forward/Center (11.3 ppg and 5.8 rpg)
Spencer Tollackson, Forward/Center (9.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg)

Key Returning Players:

Al Nolen, Guard Soph. (4.3 ppg, 1.9 steals pg, and 3.5 assist pg)
Blake Hoffarber, Guard Soph. (8.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, and 42% 3 point shooting)
Damian Johnson, Forward Jr. (7.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 1.4 blocks pg)
Lawrence Westbrook, Guard Jr. (8.5 ppg, 1.9 steals pg, and 3.5 assist pg)

Key Players In:
Devron Bostick, Guard Fr.
6-5 210 Racine, Wis./Southwestern Illinois CC
Devoe Joseph, Guard Fr.
6-3 170 Ajax, Ontario, Canada/Pickering
Colton Iverson, Forward Fr.
6-10 235 Yankton, S.D./Yankton
Ralph Sampson III, Forward Fr.
6-11 220 Duluth, Ga./Northview
Paul Carter, Forward So.
6’8” 195 Little Rock, Ar./Missouri State-West Plains JC

Smiths first recruiting class addresses the lack of talent and depth in the front court. Losing Tollackson and Coleman is a huge lose, but the addition of Sampson and Iverson should turn out to be an up-grade. Sampson was a late bloomer in high school, but he has shown a nice jump shot out to about 17 feet. While not as physically gifted as his father, Virginia All-American and NBA player Ralph Sampson Jr., he is strong and athletic enough to be a defensive force and seems to have a solid grasp of the game. Iverson comes to campus with a offense game stronger than Sampson. He has good post moves and is an aggressive all-around rebounder, but he needs to improve on defense.

The only player returning from last season that is over 6’7″ is the 6’9” center Jonathan Williams. While he is a senior, he has not been off the bench to often, averaging only 13.1 minutes and 3.0 points per game. Johnson is the most experienced and athletic forward on the squad. While only standing 6’7”, Johnson averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.7 steals per game, saw most of his minutes last season at power forward. Incoming sophomore Carter, who is an athletic slasher with a decent perimeter game, will have a hard time finding time and but if he is one the court, it will be at PF.
Sampson, Iverson, Williams, and Johnson will be competing for the PF and C starting spots.

The backcourt will be the strength of the Golden Gophers. The Gophers will look to Westbrook to pick his scoring to fill the void left by McKenzie. Westbrook has the range to do it and has a greater ability than McKenzie to get to the basket. Smith will look to Nolen to not only increase his numbers on offense, but also put constant pressure on the opposing ball handler. Both of these players are expected to see the majority of minutes at PG.

If Hoffarber never makes another basket in his life, he would still be a Minnesota basketball legend. As a sophomore in high school, Hoffarber hit a last second shot while sitting on the three-point line, not only did it send the championship game into a second overtime – which his team went onto win – he also won an ESPY. In his first season in college, he again hit an important last second shot in the Big-Ten tourney that won the game for the Gophers – click here to see both highlighted on ESPN.

Last season saw Hoffarber receive more playing time than many expected, as he was used mostly as a 3-point specialist. But he needs to expand his game of the dribble if he wants to see more playing time. Bostick will come in a provide help in scoring and could potentially make the starting line-up at SF.

Joseph will add even more outside shooting plus the ability to get to the rim but majority of his minutes – at least early in the year – will be off the bench. Junior Jamal AbuShamla contributed 13.1 minutes and 3.4 point a game last year, but might be hard-pressed get off the bench unless he improved his game while playing the Jordon National team, if he did, he will add depth at SF.
The early portion of Minnesota’s schedule is filled with cupcakes. Match-ups in December with Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and Louisville in the Stadium Shootout, will be the toughest games until they run into the big boys of the Big Ten to start conference play – Michigan Sate Dec. 31st and Ohio State Jan. 2nd, which are both at home. Other than Purdue, the rest of the Big Ten is pretty mediocre and the Gophers should be able to add a couple wins to the 20 season of last season and improve on their 8-10 record in conference.
For the first time in a while, the Golden Gophers have quality depth and could go 11 eleven deep. And depending on the situation, you might see Smith go to a four guard line-up or go “small” with Johnson as the big.

G Nolen, SG Westbrook SF Bostick PF Johnson C Sampson III
F/C Iverson, F AbuShamla, C Williams, F Carter, G Hoffarber,G Joseph