With fans mostly talking about how frustrating Gophers basketball was to watch last season, Richard Pitino and his players are anxious to get on the court to show them how much better they are this year.
But until then, all Pitino can do is talk about the team's potential, which he did at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday.
"It’s so hard sitting on a tough season," Pitino said on WCCO-830. "It’s very difficult to sit for five or six months. So we’re all excited to get back to work. ...I’m fully confident that it’ll be our best team next year. Again, knock on wood that we stay healthy. We got to get better. And we’re going to do it. We don’t have all the answers. We’re always willing to tinker with something if it’s not working. But also trust in what we’re doing and have full confidence that we’re going to be very good this year."
Pitino said he potentially could have a lineup this season that includes junior guard Nate Mason, freshman guard Amir Coffey, senior transfer guard Akeem Springs (joined the team this week) and sophomore forward Jordan Murphy.
He didn't mention a center. That position was in flux this summer. It likely will be Illinois State transfer and Edina native Reggie Lynch, who is still suspended pending a university investigation on his arrest for suspicision of assault in the spring. Lynch was not charged in the case by the U police, so the Gophers expect him to be able to play this year.
"Nothing new," Pitino said about Lynch. "We're just sitting and waiting. I don't know other than that."
The most impactful newcomer could be Coffey, a high-profile recruit from Hopkins. Pitino said Tuesday he expects last year's Minnesota Mr. Basketball to play a lot as a freshman.
"From what I’ve seen from him, he’s all that I thought he’d be and more," Pitino said. "He’s a phenomenal passer. He’s got great size. He’s all of 6-7. He’s better defensively than I thought he would be. We haven’t had a lot of screening actions and all those things. We’ll see on that. I’m extremely excited about him. I think he’s going to have a chance to play at the next level. He’s got the size and skill to do that. I think he’s going to make an impact right away."
Fellow freshman Michael Hurt, who could make an impact as a three-point shooting threat, looks forward to the Gophers showing fans how much they've improved from last season.
"(Coffey, freshman Eric Curry) and I kind of had the same goal when we came here," Hurt said at the state fair. "We see a lot of really good players and an opportunity to really change the perspective people have on our team. I think we're going to have a really great year."