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Rayno: What will Pitino's starting five look like this year?

(Thank you to my colleague Michael Rand for hitting up Friday’s U-M media access and passing along the audio garnered. I was out of town on a previously planned trip.)

Richard Pitino, in a press conference before the start of official fall practice last week, laid out a potential starting lineup that was heavy on veterans and without any of the hotshot freshmen that arrived on campus this summer.

So. G Nate Mason

Sr. G Carlos Morris

Rs. Jr. wing Charles Buggs

Sr. F Joey King

So. C Bakary Konate

That’s if his University of Minnesota men’s basketball team was playing that night, he said. “But again, in six weeks (before the first game), so much can change.”

It’s likely much will. Right now, it makes sense that Pitino would trust his returning players the most. He’s seen each of them for a full season, knows their tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. Even if they don’t seem to be the best players on the court even now – and that bunch as a whole probably isn’t – the coaches at least know what to expect from them.

Fortunately for Minnesota, the season didn’t start on Friday and Pitino and Co. has a month and a half to let the various lineup competitions play out. In that time, Pitino will be juggling his goal to play bigger with his analysis of where the greatest talent lies.

Pitino has made it clear both last week and in the past that he wants to start fielding bigger teams than the undersized version that got pushed around so much in Big Ten play last year. That’s definitely a concern in a league that certainly took advantages of defensive matchups vs. the Gophers a year ago, and seems to be getting bigger and bigger at each position every year.  If that is the main goal, the starting five he named Friday is probably the best-case scenario.

But there is also the question of talent.

“We’re trying not to play three guards [this year],” Pitino said. “…A lot of our issues last year defensively were not being quick to the ball and a lot of that has to do with playing three guards. I think [smaller lineups are] a strength offensively, [but] not as much defensively, rebounding the ball. So we’re going to try to do that – I don’t know if it will work, but we’re going to start with that kind of model.”

At this point, though, I’m not sure his personnel – and the best use of his personnel – supports that.

Here is another option:

Fr. G Kevin Dorsey

So. G Nate Mason

Sr. G Carlos Morris/ Rs. Jr. Charles Buggs

Fr. F Jordan Murphy

So. C Bakary Konate

Considering the Gophers’ overall defensive lapses a year ago – Minnesota was second-to-last in the league in scoring defense -- the poor defensive reputations of Morris and Buggs are concerning. Murphy and Dorsey, meanwhile, could be two of the better defenders on the roster, and Murphy’s long wingspan and nose for rebounding would be another worthy addition given’s King’s unavoidable shortcomings on the glass – “He’s not one of those guys who is quick to the ball,” Pitino said, “He doesn’t have long arms.

On Friday Pitino also gushed about both Dorsey and Murphy, calling the former a “phenomenal defender,” and one who can ‘wow’ the coaches – both in good ways and bad ways, and touting the latter’s “phenomenal potential.” Both, he said, are ready for major minutes.

Adding those two players wouldn't give Minnesota the size Pitino desires, but it seems like it would give them significantly more talent on the floor. In that situation, talent trumps size most of the time.

Even if we see the lineup Pitino threw out last week at the start of the season, I’m guessing we’ll see plenty of this other version as well – if it doesn’t take over altogether.

Gophers basketball to host men's, women's doubleheader to open season

Gophers basketball fans will be treated to a doubleheader to open the season.

Both the women's team and the men's team open their regular seasons on Friday, Nov. 13, at Williams Arena. Until Wednesday, that was a mysterous oddity on the schedules. But the university confirmed Wednesday that it's a true, old-fashioned baseball -- er, basketball doubleheader. One ticket gets you to both games. The women tip at 5:30, followed by a 40-minute break, and then the men will open their season.

Season ticket holders for the men's team will receive and equal number of free tickets to the women's game, and vice versa. Arena seats will be cleared between games, to allow for season-ticket holders to sit in their respective seats for each game. For those who don't have season tickets to either, the doubleheader tickets are on sale now.

The women play Wofford, and the men take on Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). 

The men play two exhibition games at home -- against Crookston and Southwest Minnesota State -- on Nov. 1 and 6.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Lynx at Indiana

    7pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey


  • Gophers football at Purdue

    2:30pm on ESPN, 100.3-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey


  • Timberwolves vs. Chicago (preseason)

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  • St. Louis at Wild

    7pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Lynx at Indiana

    7:30pm on ESPN, 106.1-FM

  • Timberwolves at Toronto (preseason)

    6:30pm on 830-AM

  • Timberwolves vs. Toronto (preseason)

    6pm on 830-AM

  • Wild at Phoenix

    9pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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