Richard Pitino would be the first to tell you that the first 13 games weren’t necessarily what fans should expect to see from the Gophers men’s basketball team. It started with the Marcus Carr eligibility situation and ended with Eric Curry finally making his first appearance since March 2017 in the last non-conference game against Mt. St. Mary’s. In between, there was the unfortunate passing of Dupree McBrayer’s mother and the up and down play on the court of many of the team’s key players. When all was said and done though, the Golden Gophers came out of the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 10-1 record and head into Big Ten Conference play with the two games under their belt against Ohio State and Nebraska. Here are a couple of positives to look forward to as the Gophers face Big Ten opponents from now through the Big Ten Tournament in March.
With Eric Curry back, the Gophers are healthy as they enter Big Ten play. While Curry will still take a couple games to get back in the swing of things for Minnesota, Pitino will be happy to have a deeper bench back to go to when he needs to. Ten different players played for Minnesota in the non-conference finale vs. Mt. St. Mary’s including nine different scorers.
The trio of Jarvis Omersa, Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu have shown signs of being 18-year old kids but also signs of promise that Gophers fans should be excited for. While Curry might eventually replace one of the freshmen in the starting lineup, the three will continue to get valuable minutes in conference play. Minnesota will need the trio to show productivity throughout January and beyond if the team hopes to consider 2018-19 a successful season.
Winning away from Williams Arena
Winning on the road on a neutral court in November is going to feel like a piece of cake compared to some of the road games coming up for Minnesota. With losses already on the road against Boston College and Ohio State, winning away from Minneapolis is going to be key throughout the rest of the season. The first test for the Gophers will be on Jan. 3 against Wisconsin in Madison. The Badgers are 10-3 and coming off a loss against Western Kentucky who was 6-6 at the time. A Richard Pitino Gophers team has not beaten Wisconsin in Madison and his only win vs. Wisconsin overall was in his opening season as Minnesota’s coach.