Minnesota Preview

by Chris Mackinder | November 28th, 2007

2006-2007 Record: 9-22 (3-13 Big 10, 9th)
Postseason Games:

3/8/2007 Michigan Big Ten Tournament L 49-40

Returning Statistical Leaders:
14.9 ppg – Lawrence McKenzie
6.0 rpg – Dan Coleman
2.8 apg – Lawrence McKenzie

Starting Lineup: Key Stat:
C Spencer Tollackson 6’9 Sr. FG% dropped 9.1% last season
PF Dan Coleman 6’9 Sr. 77.4 FT% was 9th best in Big Ten in ‘07
SF Jamal Abu-Shamala 6’5 Jr. 43.1% 3-point shooter; 81.2% FT shooter
SG Lawrence Westbrook 6’0 So. Averaged 41 ppg as high school senior
PG Lawrence McKenzie 6’2 Sr. Made 2.5 3-pointers per game last year

Key Player Losses: Limar Wilson. A spark plug off the bench, Wilson had scrappy numbers (4.1 pg, 2.2 apg) but was more valuable than statistics could ever show.

Impact Newcomer: Blake Hoffarber. The 6-foot-4 guard led his Minnesota high school to a state title the past two seasons. With his quickness, Hoffarber is hoping to turn the Golden Gophers into Big Ten title contenders sooner rather than later.

Tough Question: How will Tubby Smith work his magic? Here are the facts: Smith left Kentucky despite a 263-83 record through 10 seasons. Those are numbers that get a statue of you erected in Minneapolis. With a full cupboard upon his arrival, Smith should work his magic quickly and have the Gophers playing up to their full potential very soon. It won’t happen this year, but sometime in the next three or four years Smith will make Minnesota the fourth school he’s taken to the Sweet 16. For 2007-08, Minnesota will contend for the NIT title.

Too Much PT: Kevin Payton. The scrappy sophomore guard could develop into a solid role player. For now, he’s too turnover prone and doesn’t deserve 10-15 minutes per game.

Get Him on the Floor: Jonathan Williams. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound junior is a big body to put in the middle. His ability to snatch up rebounds on both sides of the floor and stay out of foul trouble make him a great asset to have on the bench.

Point Guard Impact: Every team in the country would love to have a Lawrence McKenzie. He’s quick, he has experience, he can shoot (14.9 ppg) and he can pass (2.8 apg). He’s one of the most clutch players in the conference. Minnesota will go as McKenzie goes.

Final Word: You likely never thought you’d hear that Minnesota was yearning for the glory days when Clem Haskins was at the helm did you? Well, that is how bad things were under Dan Monson’s reign in Minneapolis. With Tubby Smith now calling the shots, the Golden Gophers have immediate credibility. And, as an added bonus, Smith inherits a starting lineup with four upperclassmen (three seniors). Minnesota will make a major statement in the Big Ten in 2007-08 and while the NCAA Tournament is a stretch, a deep run in the NIT wouldn’t be shocking.


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