2024-25 Big Ten offseason at a glance: Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • 05/21/2024 7:44 am in

Welcome to “Big Ten offseason at a glance,” a team-by-team look at the conference at the start of the summer. We’ll examine roster movement for each Big Ten roster and give an early outlook for each Big Ten program for the 2024-25 season.

Previously: Penn State

Today: Minnesota (19-15 overall in 2023-24, 9-11 in Big Ten play)

Minnesota is the second lowest-ranked Big Ten team currently in Bart Torvik’s rankings for the 2024-25 season. It will enter season four under Ben Johnson, who will likely be on the hot seat.

Minnesota roster movement

Players returning with eligibility remaining: Mike Mitchell Jr., Dawson Garcia, Parker Fox, Kadyn Betts

Players departing due to exhausted eligibility: Jack Wilson

Players who departed via the transfer portal: Pharrel Payne (to Texas A&M), Elijah Hawkins (to Texas Tech), Joshua Ola-Joseph (to California), Braeden Carrington (to Tulsa), Isaiah Ihnen (to Liberty), Cam Christie (also testing NBA draft), Kristupas Keinys (to Pacific)

Players arriving via the transfer portal: Brennan Rigsby (from Oregon), Frank Mitchell (from Canisius), Caleb Williams (from Macalester), Femi Odukale (from New Mexico State), Trey Edmonds (from UTSA), Lu’Cye Patterson (from Charlotte)

Players arriving via high school: Isaac Asuma, Grayson Grove

Minnesota currently has one scholarship open for next season. That doesn’t account for Christie, who entered the NBA draft and the transfer portal. The expectation is Christie will remain in the draft. This will likely be a make-or-break season for Johnson, who had a surprising 19-15 record last season but now must deal with several of his top players to the portal.

What to like about Minnesota

It appeared Johnson could be on his way out of Minneapolis as last season began. Expectations were low for the Golden Gophers, who were picked to finish near the bottom of the league in Johnson’s third season. To Johnson’s credit, he won 19 games, although a ridiculously easy non-conference schedule aided the overall record.

Because of last season’s surprise performance, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to assume this season will be the end of the line for Johnson. In the face of adversity last winter, he delivered a solid season relative to expectations. He does return one of the league’s best frontcourt pieces in Garcia, a talented lefty who can play inside and out. Mitchell, who made a team-high 79 3s and shot close to 40 percent from distance, is also back.

What to question with Minnesota

Does Minnesota have the talent necessary to compete in the Big Ten? The transfer portal losses are significant. Payne, a productive big man, left for Texas A&M. Hawkins, one of the league’s best playmakers, is now at Texas Tech. Christie’s solid freshman season put him on the NBA radar earlier than expected.

The Gophers clearly have an NIL problem; otherwise, the roster losses wouldn’t have been so significant. That has to be taken into account when judging Johnson, but ultimately, the wins and losses fall on the head coach. Johnson probably has to take another step forward to keep his job going forward.

As for the replacements for the departed, Minnesota will likely look to Patterson, a transfer from Charlotte, to start at the point. Odukale, a New Mexico State transfer, will get the first look on the wing with Mitchell, a Canisius transfer, likely getting the first shot to play the five. The theme here is that all of these players are up-transfers, which is a crap shoot in terms of how they’ll adjust and produce.

Minnesota’s outlook for the 2024-25 season

Here’s Minnesota’s Big Ten schedule for next season:

Home: Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oregon, Purdue, Washington
Away: Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, Rutgers, UCLA, USC
Home/Away: Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin

As of this writing, Minnesota is ranked No. 69 in Bart Torvik’s ratings for the 2024-25 season. That’s likely a fair assessment of the program’s current state. In an era where roster power is largely determined by NIL, Minnesota is near or at the bottom of the pecking order in the Big Ten.

It’s probably unrealistic to expect Johnson to deliver an NCAA tournament bid next winter with this roster. Garcia and Mitchell are solid players, but there are too many question marks at other key positions to expect improvement next winter. Regardless of who the coach is in Minneapolis, it will be challenging to win with meager NIL resources.

(Photo credit: Minnesota Athletics)

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