Chad Graff / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Fresh off a loss to a Nebraska basketball program that has struggled for years, Richard Pitino gathered his No. 14 Gophers the other day to talk about national rankings. A year ago, he told them, they were the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament and a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, a fine season by most accounts. And yet, they were only ranked in the top 25 "for like a day," Pitino said.
MINNEAPOLIS — The best player on a Gophers men's basketball team with Sweet 16 aspirations was the fifth and final member of the 2015 recruiting class, an afterthought who didn't commit to the school until several weeks before high school graduation. Jordan Murphy arrived at the U with low expectations as a three-star recruit, the fourth best of five freshmen to sign in Richard Pitino's second class, according to ESPN. In ability and certainly in intrigue, Murphy figured to take a back seat in a class that included a Minnesotan and a four-star point guard.
ST. PAUL—Charlie Coyle returned early last month from a broken leg and donned pads for his first game in five weeks without so much as a practice under his surgically repaired right fibula. That night two weeks ago, the Wild center admits, he wondered how his leg would hold up during loose-puck battles in the corner.
MINNEAPOLIS — One game after a packed Williams Arena offered what Richard Pitino called the best environment of his five-year tenure against No. 10 Miami, a dreary atmosphere at the barn welcomed the start of Big Ten play. For the Gophers' goal of winning the conference, Sunday's 89-67 win over Rutgers was far more important than their Wednesday loss to Miami. And yet for everyone else in this building, Sunday was a letdown, a sluggish matchup with odd timing.
ST. PAUL — A couple of months before the NHL's 31st team put together its first roster via the expansion draft in June, Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee summoned former Wild GM Doug Risebrough to the desert. Seventeen years earlier, Risebrough had guided the Wild through the league's last expansion draft when Minnesota and the Columbus Blue Jackets joined the league. McPhee wanted to pick Risebrough's brain. As Risebrough toured the operations of Las Vegas' first professional sports franchise, he quickly realized just how different McPhee's task was.
MINNEAPOLIS — In the days leading to Wednesday's game between No. 12 Minnesota and No. 10 Miami at Williams Arena, Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck gave men's basketball coach Richard Pitino a yellow University of Minnesota pullover, the type Fleck often wore on the sidelines in his first season at the U. "Only he would wear this," Pitino joked as he put it on Tuesday. The gift was the latest sign in the budding friendship between Pitino, 35, and Fleck, 37.
MINNEAPOLIS — On the eve of one of the biggest nonconference home games in years for the Gophers men's basketball team, Jordan Murphy has been busy trying to explain the strange ending to the Gophers' win over then-No. 25 Alabama on Saturday, Nov 25.
MINNEAPOLIS — Before Richard Pitino's 14th-ranked Gophers improved their unbeaten mark to 4-0 Sunday afternoon, Nov. 19, the fifth-year head coach preached to his team the importance of guarding the 3-point line, a key to their success in reaching the NCAA tournament a year ago. No longer, he told them, can we let teams win from the outside. Then a Western Carolina team with talent that didn't rival Minnesota's came out and shot 50 percent on their 22 3-point tries.
MINNEAPOLIS — At the end of the latest Gophers men's basketball win, head coach Richard Pitino loosened the knot on his tie as he stood alongside his victorious team and took a sigh of relief. His team that carries high expectations and a plethora of talent was tested Sunday afternoon, Nov. 19 — and yet still won by 28 points over Western Carolina, a testament to their talent on one hand, and a concerning lethargic effort on the other. "It was a win," Pitino said, "but we've got to learn from it."
MINNEAPOLIS — As Reggie Lynch walked around town this offseason, fresh off a record-setting season that made him the Big Ten defensive player of the year, fans often approached him with one of three sentiments. About 20 percent of the time, he estimated, fans congratulated him on his 114 blocked shots last season, a Gophers men's basketball record. Occasionally, too, the message was a simple good luck for a Gophers season that continues Monday with their second game, a visit to Providence. But the rest of the time?