Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

Email Patrick.

Myth-busting on start to U's basketball season

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: January 7, 2014 - 2:43 PM

There are a couple of myths floating about on Rich Pitino's basketball team.

The first of those was that the Gophers nearly pulled off an upset of Michigan in the Big Ten opener. The Gophers were 2 1/2-point favorites, based on three factors:

1) The Wolverines two highest scorers from the NCAA runners-up of 2013, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., were taken in the first round of the draft and are playing in the NBA.

2) Center Mitch McGary, a preseason All-America, was sidelined and will miss much of the season for back surgery.

3) The game was at Williams Arena, which is worth three points to the gamblers on all occasions.

Michigan also lost Glenn Robinson III, its best remaining player, due to injury in the second half. If the betting crowd had known Robinson would be unavailable for half of the game, the Gophers would have been 6-point favorites, rather than 2 1/2.

FACT: Michigan pulled off the upset in the Big Ten opener.

There was also this headline on Sid Hartman's column: "Gophers, Pitino exceed expectations.''

This is subject to opinion, of course. Sid and I discussed this Sunday night on the fine-tuned, well-produced The Sports Show. We agreed to disagree (as is often the case) on what occurred during the first two conference games of Pitino's tenure.

Sid was in the "near upset for the Gophers'' camp for the Michigan game. And he was equally impressed with an 82-79 victory over a Purdue team that is loaded with freshmen and looking ahead to a return to the Big Ten's first division next season.

Most of us can appreciate the change in style that Pitino has brought to the Gophers. Watching a basketball team try to play fast is more appealing than what we saw from Tubby Smith's teams.

Each season, we would hear about the Gophers using more pressure defense and getting out on the break, and by February, they would be bogged down ... trying to beat the Wisconsins of the Big Ten with a molasses pace.

So, yeah, this is better, but to suggest the Gophers going through the non-conference schedule at a very Tubby-like 11-2, and then splitting two Big Ten games in which they were favorites is surpassing reasonable expectations ... well, I disagree with the Great Man.

I was surprised that the Gophers handled Florida State in December. I was surprised that they lost to Michigan. So far, I'd say Pitino is .500 when it comes to producing surprise.

That's because any references to Pitino having a "young team'' are false. He has a young program, but it is built on a very experienced roster.

Senior Austin Hollins and junior Andre Hollins are among the most-veteran guard combinations in the country. They came into this season with a combined 174 games played and 129 starts for the Gophers.

Front-court starters Elliott Eliason and Oto Osenieks are both fourth-year juniors ... four years in a Big Ten program. The minutes of the pair were erratic with Tubby, but they entered this season having played in a combined 126 games.

Backup center Mo Walker is also a redshirt junior with 42 games played entering this season.

Three-point gunner Malik Smith is a senior transfer with 54 games at two junior colleges and 32 games (31 starts) for Pitino last season at Florida International. Point guard DeAndre Mathieu is a junior, with 29 games (nine starts) at Morehead [Ky.] State, and then 34 games as a junior college star at Central Arizona.

Joey King is a sophomore forward with 32 games of Division I experience at Drake.

Daquein McNeil, a freshman guard, is the only player of inexperience who will see the court when it matters -- and he's still ninth in the rotation.

So far, the 2013-14 Gophers have moved faster to have about the same start as they would've had with Tubby (although he might have beaten Michigan).


Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question