Minnesota's postseason hopes were dashed as all-league forward Trevor Mbakwe collapsed with a torn ACL in his right knee and will be out for the remainder of the year. The impact of Mbakwe out of the lineup is tremendous- through seven games, he averaged 14 points, 9 rebounds and better than 1.5 blocks per game- the team-leader in all three categories. The loss leaves Tubby Smith with two rotational players in the frontcourt and almost no depth behind them- starters Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampson III. The offseason transfer of backup center Colton Iverson to Colorado State is proving to be much larger than nearly everyone thought it would be.
Despite being a senior, Mbakwe has played in just 49 career games; he played in 11 games as a freshman at Marquette before transferring to Minnesota, sitting out the next season as a result. In his first year with the Golden Gophers programs, he sat out the entire 2009-10 season due to legal issues and now, will sit out the remaining games with a knee injury in 2011-12. Minnesota has applied for a medical hardship waiver to get the forward back next season.
A collapse is expected for the Golden Gophers, but like Williams and Samspon will face the most pressure in elevating their game to make Minnesota a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big Ten. Williams has been high on our big board throughout his previous two seasons based on his length and tremendous athleticism and this could be his big break to display his upside.