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Minnesota guard Joe Coleman asks for release

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

Richard Pitino already had a tough road ahead in his first year at Minnesota, with frontcourt starters Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe both gone from last season.

Now, Pitino is losing a third starter, as guard Joe Coleman has asked for his release, a source confirmed to CBSSports.com.

The news should be made official on Wednesday. It was first reported by the Pioneer Press (Minn.).

Coleman, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Minneapolis, averaged 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds this past season. He's a strong guard who loves to get to the rim off the dribble, and is capable of finishing effectively in the paint. However, he struggled mightily in the down the stretch, reaching double-figures just three times in the final 15 regular season games.

Pitino does return the backcourt duo of Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins, the team's top two scorers and assist men. After that, though, it's up in the air. Coleman's departure leaves a hole on the perimeter, and newcomers Daquein McNeil and Dre Mathieu will fight for minutes, along with senior Maverick Ahanmisi. Up front, rotation players Elliott Eliason, Maurice Walker and Oto Osenieks will have to take on much bigger roles, and redshirt Charles Buggs will also see time.

Minnesota went 21-13 last season, getting bounced in the Round of 32 by Florida. Tubby Smith was fired after the season, and the Golden Gophers hired Pitino from Florida International.

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