Preview: The Gophers will debut a more experienced, more athletic squad, with five newcomers expected to help the program erase memories of last season’s 8-23 debacle. Fourth-year coach Richard Pitino welcomes back junior guard Nate Mason, who led the team in scoring (13.4) and assists (4.5). Sophomore forward Jordan Murphy led the team in rebounding (8.0), blocks (32) and steals (32). Bemidji State returns four starters from a 10-17 team in 2015-16. The Beavers, who fell to Minnesota in exhibition games in 2006 and 2011, lost 71-48 at Northern Iowa last week.
Players to watch: Freshman guard Amir Coffey and junior center Reggie Lynch are two newcomers expected to be in the Gophers’ starting lineup Thursday.
Numbers: Starting with the Nov. 11 opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, the Gophers will play six straight home games to start the season, the most since 1999-2000.
Injuries: Gophers sophomore guard Stephon Sharp is day-to-day with a bruised knee.