The Golden Gophers rounded out their 2020-21 roster with a big acquisition Monday.
Both Gach announced his decision to transfer from Utah and join Richard Pitino’s squad after two seasons with the Utes, choosing Minnesota over Creighton, Auburn, Maryland and Iowa State. Gach will have to apply for a waiver with the NCAA to become eligible this season, but there’s a strong chance his waiver will be approved since he is moving close to home in the midst of a pandemic, which may fall in the “personal hardship” category.
Per NCAA.org: “To qualify for such a waiver, institutions must document the mitigating circumstances that caused the deficiency. A common circumstance is a student-athlete facing a serious medical issue or other personal hardship.”
Gach faced the Gophers each of the last two seasons with the Utes, who split a home-and-home series with Minnesota, losing 78-69 at Williams Arena in 2018-19 and winning 73-69 on their home court last year. The former Austin Packer played at Williams Arena as a high school junior when his Packers were runners-up in the Boys State Tournament. His twin brother Duoth Gach was also a contributor on that team.
Between the city, the arena and the coaching staff — Gach was previously recruited by new Gophers assistant Jeff Mailhot — the incoming junior is plenty familiar with his new program. He represents another big pick-up for Pitino, whose team has undergone a major roster churn during the pandemic but will seemingly come out the other side looking like a contender.
At 6’7″, Gach plays an off guard or small forward position. With last year’s starter Payton Willis transferring to the College of Charleston, the Gophers are looking for someone to fill his role. It seemed like rising sophomore Isaiah Ihnen would have a chance to nab that starting spot after his surge in the second half of 2019-20, but Gach would likely offer more as an experienced starter, keeping Ihnen as a valuable bench piece.
Gach started 25 games in an expanded role as a sophomore with Utah, but he became a less efficient player as his shooting percentages dropped to 40/25/78 (FG/3P/FT) after he slashed 47/69/86 as a freshman. That dropoff could likely be attributed to a knee injury that bothered Gach later in the year. Gach played nine games between Jan. 12 and Feb. 23 where he didn’t exceed eight points.
The lanky sophomore averaged 10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists on the year while delivering 12 double-figure performances. Compare that to the Gophers’ other potential wing in Ihnen, who has better height than Gach at 6’9″ but only averaged 11 minutes as a freshman with 3.4 points per game and zero outings in double figures.
Replacing Ihnen with Gach could, in theory, give the Gophers a four-junior, one-senior starting lineup with a deep bench of freshman, sophomores and junior Jarvis Omersa. That’s a group that could compete in 2020-21, return most of its contributors and be a force in 2021-22.