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Gilbert to return to Gophers' rotation Wednesday

University of Minnesota freshman Ahmad Gilbert will be available for tomorrow's home game against Michigan, coach Richard Pitino said on Tuesday evening, after sitting out the last five games.

Gilbert dislocated a finger on his left hand in the Gophers game against Indiana on Jan. 16 and had surgery on the digit the following day. Pitino said Gilbert practiced without contact on Sunday and was "full go" both yesterday and today.

The wing is averaging 2.4 points and 0.9 rebounds in 8.1 minutes a game on the season, but prior to his injury, the wing had started to noticeably improve on the court, starting against Indiana for the second game.

Another bonus of Gilbert's return? He's one of the only natural shooters -- albeit a raw one -- on the team outside of senior Joey King. Shooting has been a major deficit for Minnesota this season. The Gophers are shooting 28.4 percent from beyond the arc in conference play, second worst in the league.

"He had to get quicker," Pitino said of Gilbert. "I think the speed of the game got to him a little bit, but I thought he was trending the right way and then he got hurt."

Pitino on Louisville.

Last week, the news came out of Louisville that Rick Pitino's Cardinals were self-imposing a postseason ban following undisclosed information that came to light during the university's in-house investigation. Much has been made about how the unexpected, late-year punishment affects Damion Lee and Trey Lewish, two graduate transfers who clearly had nothing to do with any of the wrongdoing, but who came to the program in large part because of the strong chance of getting to the NCAA tournament.

Richard Pitino weighed in on the reality facing his father's program:

"It's a difficult situation," he said. "To kind of be thrown in that a couple of days ago is hard and I feel bad for those guys, Damion and Trey because they're really good kids. I don't know them really well, I've met them a couple times and they seem like great kids. 

"But whoever said it was going to be fair? Everybody sits around and talks about 'it's not fair, this and that.' Well life's not fair. And that's OK. That's part of the deal. So I feel bad for those guys but I know they'll make the best of however many weeks they have left and I think they showed that. It was a great game last night, they were playing with great passion, pride. There is still a lot to play for. Those guys have the potential to play in the NBA ...I think they're still in the hunt for the ACC title. So there is still a lot to play for. It stinks for those guys, I feel for them, but there's no perfect fix to any of these things."

Mason bothered, but better.

Pitino also noted that Nate Mason was bothered by a minor heel injury in the Gophers' 82-58 loss at Northwestern. 

The point guard, who was averaging 20 points and 7.3 assists in the previous four games, managed just eight points and two assists against the Wildcats. Pitino said Mason first complained about the issue -- which he called a bruise -- a week ago, but didn't bring it up on Thursday.

"I asked him after the game, I said 'What was wrong with you?'" Pitino said. "He said my heel hurts. I said Nate, 'You've got to tell us if you're hurt.' He made a good point, he said 'What am I going to tell a coach during a game that I'm hurt?' I get it but if he's not 100 percent, he's got to let us know and we've got to get him out.

"But I don't think it was anything serious, he's better now, he seems fine."

Maroon Out.

Wednesday's game vs. Michigan (8 p.m. Big Ten Network) is being promoted as a "maroon out." Gophers fans are encouraged to wear all maroon and Pitino is rumored to be wearing a maroon jacket.

Schedule gets tougher for winless Gophers

Just when it looked like Minnesota might find a way to turn the corner, the Gophers endured a big setback -- to the tune of 82-58 -- at Northwestern on Thursday, igniting new questions about just how bruised and battered this squad is.

But perhaps the biggest concern for Minnesota about last week's laid egg should be the imminent road ahead.

There are still three games between now and that shining beacon of Rutgers at home -- the first Gophers conference victory predicted by analyst Ken Pomeroy. Although Minnesota has dealt with problems that run the gamut, the Gophers should still be plenty more talented than the woeful Scarlet Knights, as evidenced by their KenPom ranking (282) compared with that of Minnesota (199).

In the meantime, though, the Gophers -- in the midst of playing four ranked opponents in six games -- must navigate through perhaps the toughest stretch yet.

First, Minnesota gets Michigan at home on Wednesday. The Wolverines have received at least one vote in each of the last three polls despite star guard Caris LeVert sitting out since December 30. Coach John Beilein keeps saying LeVert is close to returning, but there are no hints about whether he'll be back against Minnesota. Michigan has struggled at times lately, particularly in a back-to-back losses to Indiana and Michigan State at home, but with LeVert in tow, the Wolverines might be a top-25 caliber team.

This weekend, the Gophers have a Valentine's date at Iowa, the Big Ten leader and fourth-ranked team nationally in this week's Associated Press poll. If that's not enough of a fear factor, Minnesota will return home for a matchup against No. 2 Maryland. Minnesota is fortunate enough to face each of the two league leaders just once this season, but the Gophers get both in the span of five days and at a time when each squad is possibly playing their best basketball of the year.

In other words, it's not a great time to be licking your wounds and trying to collect your confidence after arguably the worst spill of the season. But such is the Gophers' task in the week and a half ahead. 

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Dallas at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Toronto at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Michigan at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Nebraska at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Washington at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers men's hockey at Ohio State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Minnesota Duluth

    7:07 pm

  • Boston at Wild

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Minnesota Duluth

    4:07 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Ohio State

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers men's basketball at Iowa

    6:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Iowa at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on BTN, 88.5-FM

  • Wild at Vancouver

    9 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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