In all the excitement surrounding the current Gophers, the future looks even brighter. One interesting thing looking to the future is that the only graduating seniors are JAS and Jonathon Williams but we are bringing in four highly regarded players. JAS and Williams only contribute 21.4 total minutes per game. I doubt the 4 incoming will only be sharing those minutes. The lineup will look quite different. I think Tubby will go with playing ten players regularly, a starter and a back-up for every position. Here is what I see the 2009-2010 Gophers looking like:
Starter: Al Nolen (Jr.) - This is a no doubter. He currently leads the team in minutes with 28.9. If he makes a similar stride that he has made this year from his freshman year he will be a serious contender for 1st team All-Big Ten.
Backup: Devoe Joseph (Soph.) - He has been playing some quality minutes lately for the Gophers adding tempo and quickness on both ends of the court. He needs to work on his shot a little and creating off the dribble but he should be one of the best back up point guards in the Big Ten next year.
Starter: Lawrence Westbrook (Sr.) - He will likely come into next year as the leading scorer. I don't see that continuing on next year's squad. He lacks the size of a typical shooting guard but has a good shot and can create his own shot. He might end up more of a 6th man on next years squad but should still get over 10 ppg next year.
Backup: Blake Hoffarber (Jr.) - He has been struggling lately with his shot and confidence but when he gets it going him and Jon Diebler of Ohio State are the best pure shooters in the Big Ten. He draws the opposing teams respect as evidenced in the Penn State game and is capable of getting 20 points on any night. He still needs to work on his defense and other aspects of the offensive game but he should still be a big contributor with close to 10 ppg.
Starter: Damian Johnson (Sr.) - He should be defensive 1st team all-big ten this year and that will carry over next year. He should be the strong senior leader the team will need. He needs to further develop the offensive game but he will be counted on every night.
Backup: Devron Bostick (Sr.) - This is a hard one to call. It should between him and Paul Carter (Jr.). Bostick could also see some time as the shooting guard, but I believe the offensive game that Bostick can bring will lead to him getting more minutes. He seems to be finally coming into his own and gives the Gophers a much needed dimension.
Starter: Trevor Mbakwe (Jr.) - This is based off of the one game I saw of him when he was at Marquette. He was a freshman coming off a torn acl. He is only 6-8 but he was playing Georgetown and held his own guarding Roy Hibbert and grabbing 7 rebounds in 14 minutes. He is averaging 12.3 rebs and 3.4 blocks with 13 ppg in JC. I see him playing very similar to Raymar Morgan of MSU. He will provide toughness and could be a monster down low.
Backup: Royce White (Fr.) - He might be the most talented player on the team. He is currently the 19th ranked high school player according to Rivals.com. He might even end up as the starter at the 4 spot but I think it will start with Mbakwe because he is more physically developed and has Div. 1 experience. There shouldn't be much of an adjustment as he from reports already plays Tubby ball. He has a high basketball IQ, plays tough on both ends and does not always need the ball in his hands to put up his numbers.
Starter: Colton Iverson (Soph.) - This obviously comes down to the Twin Towers. To date, he has played more physically down low, rebounds better, and seems to be better with his back to the basket. I think after one season in the Big Ten he could blossom into a 10 ppg and 8 reb player next year.
Backup: Ralph Sampson III (Soph.) - He has the higher ceiling of the two, but he has further to go to get their. He does seem to have a nice medium range game and looks like he might someday be able to stretch that to the three-point line. He will get significant minutes and I look to see him make a huge stride next year.
Who gets left out
Paul Carter (Jr.) - I think he will still see some minutes and will play if Tubby doesn't like what he sees or if their are injuries. He needs to work on his shot. He might see more time as a Senior as a DJ Swat replacement.
Rodney Williams Jr. (Fr.) - He is a highly regarded recruit, but he is seen as raw. He has great athleticism but might take a year to learn Tubby's system. I just don't see minutes for him as a freshman but he could be the starting shooting guard as a sophomore.
Travis Busch (Sr.) - He has played some good minutes but talent will win out and there is not a spot where I can see him getting any significant minutes to the rejoice of many Gopher fans.
Justin Cobbs (Fr.) - No room for a third point guard, least regarded of incoming recruits. Might be redshirted.
Kevin Payton (Sr.) - Does not play this year, definitely will not play next year.
You may disagree with me, but you can't look at this team and not think they can contend for the Big Ten title next year. They might even be the favorites depending on other programs. Thoughts?