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Despite failed season, Gophers have reasons for optimism in 2018-19

2017-18 was a failure, but 2018-19 could be very fun.
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There are 14 teams in the Big Ten and the team that finished dead last beat the Gophers in the opening round of the conference tournament Wednesday night. 

The 65-54 loss to 14-seed Rutgers gave Minnesota, the 11-seed, a final record of 15-17, including 14 losses in their final 16 games. 

Richard Pitino's team was 13-1 before injuries and off-court issues spoiled what many national analysts thought could've been a Final Four season for the Gophers. They were ranked 15th in the preseason polls and got as high as No. 12 before everything crashed. 

What killed Minnesota most was Reggie Lynch's legal troubles, which kept him suspended before eventually being expelled from the U of M due to multiple sexual assault allegations. 

Related: 

Reggie Lynch is officially done with the Gophers

Amir Coffey's season-ending shoulder injury was also a killer. 

Despite a horrific season, things still look promising for the future. With that, here are five reasons to be excited about 2018-19.

1. Amir Coffey is back next season

Coffey was just a sophomore this season and will be 100 percent healthy by the start of the 2018-19 season. Remember, Coffey has already proven an ability to bounce back strong from injury. He tore his ACL as a junior in high school and came back for a fantastic senior season at Hopkins. 

2. Isaiah Washington takes over at point guard

Washington, the freshman from Harlem, led Minnesota with 18 points in the season-ending loss to Rutgers. He'll take over as the starter, replacing senior Nate Mason. 

Washington has already shown the ability to be one of the Big Ten's most explosive playmakers and he should only get better as a sophomore in the starting lineup. 

3. Jordan Murphy should dominate as a senior

As a junior this year, Murphy led the Gophers with 16.8 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 52.2 percent from the field. Pitino told KFAN this week that he wants to see Murphy get quicker and develop his 3-point shot before next season. Regardless, Murphy has the potential for an All-Big Ten season. 

4. The incoming freshmen will be exciting

Pitino's Class of 2018 features some really promising recruits from Minnesota: Daniel Oturu (Cretin-Derham Hall), Gabe Kalscheur (DeLaSalle) and Jarvis Thomas-Omersa (Orono). 

Oturu is a 4-star power forward while Kalscheur and Thomas-Omersa are 3-star, borderline 4-star, recruits. It won't be a big surprise if all three receive a decent amount of playing time as true freshmen.

5. Gophers could be recruiting a 5-star player

Fans might get the chance to see Rochester John Marshall's Matthew Hurt play in the State Tournament this year. 

The 6'9'' junior forward, who is the younger brother of current Gopher Michael Hurt, is ranked fifth in ESPN's national rankings for the Class of 2019. 

Hurt is a phenomenal scorer and rebounder, averaging more than 30 points and 14 rebounds per game this season, and he recently posted a huge stat line in front of Kansas coach Bill Self. 

Minnesota certainly has a chance to land the 5-star Hurt. 

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