Numbers don't lie. But they can be misleading.
That's what Minnesota coach Richard Pitino is preaching to his team after an 0-3 start in the Big Ten anyway. Last year the Gophers were 2-1 at this time. Now, they're winless as they head to Michigan hoping to earn a road victory in a building they haven't posted one since 2011.
Still, after watching film from last year's Michigan game, the coach had the same takeaway he's been feeling all season: this Gophers team is better than last year.
"We are significantly better than last year," he said. "You want that to translate to wins and sometimes it doesn't, so you've just got to believe in the process of what you're doing. I'd like to win them all. And I'd prefer to win them all and play like crap than lose, but it is what it is. I think we're moving in the right direction. I really do. I really do."
Last year, Minnesota started off with a pair of home games and then had the benefit of traveling to Happy Valley and a Penn State team that won only six conference games for its first road trip. This year's schedule has been decidedly more challenging in the early goings. The Gophers opened on the road against Purdue team that is now 2-1 with a close loss to No. 4 Wisconsin last night before traveling to No. 11 Maryland.
Hypothetically, the Gophers' offense should be better this season -- Minnesota has more scorers and better versatility despite the short bench. Statistically, the Gophers have been playing faster and the defense has been better, although Minnesota's efficiency on that side of the ball has dropped off substantially since the start of league play.
Following Minnesota's 74-72 loss to Ohio State on Tuesday, Pitino reminded his players that Nebraska -- who eventually tied for fourth in the Big Ten and earned a berth to the NCAA tournament -- started out 0-4. Eventual Final Four attendee Wisconsin had a three-game losing streak after the first two.
"Doesn't mean we're going to go to a Final Four like Wisconsin did," Pitino said. "You've got to give them confidence because they're not feeling great about themselves right now."
The players point to a cascade of little things. At Purdue, the Boilermakers' physicality took over down the stretch. At Maryland, it was fouls that did the Gophers in. Versus Ohio State, Minnesota had a couple of critical turnovers and missed free throws that turned the tide.
"Obviously our record doesn't show that we're playing pretty well, but we're still confident with where we're at and know that we're just a couple of possessions away from where we want to be," forward Joey King said.