By David McCoy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Gophers’ early struggles defensively against Michigan revealed just how much they missed starting guard Akeem Springs, who tore his Achilles in Friday’s win over Michigan State.

But the breakdowns perhaps had just as much to do with Reggie Lynch getting his tooth knocked loose against the Spartans – he was absent while Minnesota was trying to make its strategic adjustments to prepare for Michigan.

“We watched film, Reggie Lynch wasn’t there,” coach Richard Pitino said. “He was in the hospital getting his tooth fixed. So you had to prepare for a very difficult preparation versus Michigan, and you weren’t able to walk through a lot of what we were trying to do.”

That’s what makes, starting Monday, these next three days of practice so crucial: It’ll be, really, their first time since Springs went down that they’ll actually have the chance to work on how to play without him. That goes beyond Dupree McBrayer jumping into the starting lineup. It forces other guys into new roles.

“I think the biggest thing is just getting certain guys to know the plays,” Pitino said. “It’s a challenge. We don’t have great depth. We haven’t had great depth at the guard spot.… So now, we’ve got to get other guys — Stephon Sharp, Michael Hurt, Ahmad Gilbert, we gotta get Amir to understand the 2 — so we’ll have to really work the next three days obviously to prepare for Middle Tennessee but also to prepare for the way we’re going to play.”

Pitino said in Washington, D.C. that the Gophers are now a totally different team without him. We’ll soon find out how good of a team that is.

The Gophers (24-9) are the No. 5 seed in the South Region and face No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State at about 3 p.m. Thursday. The winner gets the Winthrop/Butler winner on Saturday.


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