Blog: Gopher Basketball at Big Ten Media Day

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Read the a transcript of Tubby Smith's Q&A session at Big Ten Media Day

The 2011-12 season is officially upon us. The Gophers are less than a week away from opening their exhibition schedule against Bemidji State. The final stop prior to the season is always Big Ten Media Day, which was held Thursday in Chicago.

Head coach Tubby Smith, along with senior co-captions Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III, represented the University of Minnesota at the event held at the Crowne Plaza-O'Hare. Coach Smith kicked off the event at 8:00 a.m. as the first coach to address the media.

The questions today seemed to be centered on the Gophers finish to the 2010-11 season and also about the expectations of the current back-court players. Minnesota will be without a pair of guards in Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen that played a ton of games in Maroon & Gold but Coach Smith said recently and reiterated it in Chicago that he is very excited about the players he has as replacements.

Smith believes the backcourt will be strong even though two of the three players are new to the system. Maverick Ahanmisi gained valuable experience last season, Julian Welch has played at the Division I level and Andre Hollins comes in as a heralded freshman recruit. Another freshman, Joe Coleman, along with Austin Hollins and Chip Armelin will also see time in the backcourt.

Smith also believes that having experienced the streak last season will provide the team with motivation for the upcoming season. The Gophers did lose 10 of 11 down the stretch but many of the losses came after squandering leads late in the game. The squad didn't have that experience last year but the coaching staff is confident that the current roster is ready and poised to rebound. 

Of course the news of the day was that the Big Ten media placed Mbakwe on the Preseason All-Big Ten First Team. It is definitely an honor considering the amount of basketball the Big Ten scribes watch in a season and the amount of talent that exists in the conference. The official release can be found here.

Let's not forget that Sampson also has the ability to be a First Team All-Big Ten performer. He will be one of the best shot blockers in the conference & country and will bring his steady play of 10-plus points and five-plus rebounds. He has a chance to become just the fifth player to finish his Gopher career with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 blocks. I think everyone has heard of the other four - Kevin McHale, Randy Bruer, Mychal Thompson and Michael Bauer.

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