The Athletic's Chantel Jennings: The Outlook for Minnesota

Ignatius L Hoops

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What is your outlook for Minnesota now that Dawn Plitzuweit is at the helm? — Christopher K.

The good news for Gopher fans: Plitzuweit was the right hire, and the freshman core from last season — Mara Braun, Mallory Heyer and Amaya Battle — is taking that sophomore jump, which is usually a place where we see major improvement. This feels like a season in which Minnesota can move a few pegs up the conference standings and get into the middle of the Big Ten.

The bad news for Gopher fans: The Big Ten is about to get a lot harder, and most of the teams coming in — at least in the near future — are going to slot in front of the Gophers. But with that comes an opportunity. The Big Ten now has an expanded recruiting footprint, and Plitzuweit’s staff can make some inroads. Keeping talent in state is going to remain paramount, especially since the Gophers haven’t batted 1.000 there, but if Minnesota can make some gains, keep more players home and earn some wins on the recruiting trail outside of its previous footprint, basketball in The Barn will improve. Does that improvement equate to conference championships? It’s going to take several steps to get there, but it’s not impossible.

And in top five non-conference games:

4. UConn at Minnesota, Nov. 19.

Don’t get me wrong, the UConn-UCLA and UConn-UNC games will tell us a lot more about the Huskies. But we love sports for the storylines that exist off the court, too. And this game is the ultimate “What Could’ve Been” for Gopher fans. As Bueckers returns home, Minnesota fans will get a glimpse of their homegrown player at The Barn
 

tripledouble

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Seems like a fair analysis from Chantel Jennings. I am also hoping that the Gophers can work their way up to the middle of the BIG this year and possibly get themselves in a position to get an NCAA tourney berth. I think I'd deem that as a successful season. We all know that the BIG is loaded again this year and Chantel is right...it's about to get a lot better with the new additions. I'm hoping that the Gophers will at some point in the near future be able to land a top national player, ala Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers, etc. They won't be able to jump to the top echelon of the BIG without such a recruit.
 


ISUnorth

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Seems like a fair analysis from Chantel Jennings. I am also hoping that the Gophers can work their way up to the middle of the BIG this year and possibly get themselves in a position to get an NCAA tourney berth. I think I'd deem that as a successful season. We all know that the BIG is loaded again this year and Chantel is right...it's about to get a lot better with the new additions. I'm hoping that the Gophers will at some point in the near future be able to land a top national player, ala Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers, etc. They won't be able to jump to the top echelon of the BIG without such a recruit.

Don't think you need top 10 recruits to move to the upper tier in conference. That's what you need to be in the hunt for a Final Final. Granted the conference is strong but what you need is top 50 and top 100 players that develop to complete with the top tier teams in conference. Hawks do it most years with Top 100 types. Former Big Ten players of the year Megan Gustafson was a #80, Kathleen Doyle was a #97, and Michigan's Naz Hillmon was #58.

Good as the Big Ten is right now it is not home to Top 10 recruits. Discounting future member USC, only Maryland (expected most years) landed a Top 50 recruit for 2023. Too much focus on missing Bueckers here in Minnesota IMHO. Sure we all wanted her to stay home but how many #1's do that unless it's to an elite or currently strong program? Hawks pulled a major recruiting coup in keeping Clark in Iowa (I was betting she was going to ND). ISU missing on her didn't doom their program.

Gophers have a very good base to build on and they did a great job in keeping them together for this season. That was job one (along with adding some transfers), job two will be to improve and add players while, again, keeping the base together for next season. The "keep' part is big issue these days.

 

BigTenGuy

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Don't think you need top 10 recruits to move to the upper tier in conference. That's what you need to be in the hunt for a Final Final. Granted the conference is strong but what you need is top 50 and top 100 players that develop to complete with the top tier teams in conference.
I would agree with these comments as they apply to the Big Ten say from 2010-19, when the Big Ten was a decidedly second-tier conference (the BIG had 10 total Sweet 16s in the 10 years from 2010-19). But the BIG of the last 3 years has been much better (11 Sweet 16s in 3 years), and a critical part of the improvement has been the recruitment (including via transfer) of top 25 or so talent, and high-end international talent. Indeed, last year, and perhaps the year before, being in the upper tier in the conference and in the hunt for a Final Four were one in the same thing.

With an 18-team league on the horizon, if the upper tier of the conference means being top 5, it will require some high-end talent for a team to be in that mix. Top 10 HS talent may not be required, but it will be rare, IMO, for a team with only sub top-30 talent to finish in the upper tier.
 


Chico Gopher

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And in top five non-conference games:
I'm actually pretty curious about what Bueckers game is going to look like after a pair of knee injuries. Will she be the same, 90% of her former self or better than she was as a freshman? Obviously, I haven't dug very deep, but I haven't really heard anything about how she looks as she comes back from injury.
 




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