The Gophers are close to their first sellout in two seasons with Saturday’s game against Wisconsin at Williams Arena.
There were 500 seats available (capacity is 14,625) for this weekend’s Border Battle as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a team spokesman. The Minnesota men’s basketball program’s last sellout at the Barn was the Wisconsin game in 2014-15.
It was a challenging start to the year for home attendance, not surprising coming off an 8-23 season in 2015-16.
The Gophers rank 11th in the Big Ten in attendance with 9,091 fans on average after 13 games. But their 12-1 nonconference start helped draw bigger crowds for the first two Big Ten games with 11,407 showing up for the Big Ten opener against Michigan State Dec. 27 and 11,267 for the Ohio State game Jan. 8.
Minnesota lost two straight road games after being ranked 24th in the country, so the home crowd never got to cheer on a top 25 team at the Barn. But the Gophers (15-4, 3-3) are still in NCAA tournament contention heading into one of the biggest home games against their rival Badgers in years.
Last season, Minnesota played in front of a non-sellout crowd (12,275) against Wisconsin at home for the first time since the 2006-07 season when it finished 9-22. Former Gophers coach Tubby Smith’s teams sold out every game against the Badgers during his six seasons from 2007-13.
Fourth-year Minnesota coach Richard Pitino’s teams have sold out home games three times in his tenure (vs. Indiana and Wisconsin in 2013-14 and vs. Wisconsin in 2014-15). The Gophers beat No. 9 Wisconsin 81-68 in Pitino’s first season in front of a sellout crowd. But a Gopher victory Saturday over the Badgers could arguably be an even bigger win, considering this is Pitino's most talented team.
Gophers men’s basketball sellouts in the last 10 seasons:
*Tubby Smith’s last season
** Dan Monson’s last season