Gophers looking forward to playing basketball rivals in new markets

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2014 - 11:42 PM

Rich recruiting territory appeals to an Easterner.

Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan

Photo: Associated Press file,

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When Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino considers the additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten, he sees only opportunity.

“Commissioner [Jim] Delany, he’s always been ahead of the curve, and I think he understands this is what college athletics has become,” Pitino said. “He sees the potential market out east that can be tapped into.”

In the inaugural year of the expansion, the Gophers’ Big Ten schedule will be impacted minimally.

The league has stayed with the same 18-game conference format, but each team will play fewer opponents twice. Although perpetuating certain twice-a-year matchups isn’t guaranteed, Wisconsin and Iowa — the two notable Minnesota rivalries — will remain on the home-and-away schedule for 2014-15. The Gophers will travel to Maryland for the first time, and play host to Rutgers.

Former NBA coach Eddie Jordan is entering his second season at Rutgers, his alma mater, after a rough debut (12-21) to his college coaching career last year. Maryland fell short of the NCAA tournament last year for the fourth consecutive season, finishing 17-15 under second-year coach Mark Turgeon. Maryland won the national championship in 2002 but hasn’t been back to the Sweet 16 since 2003.

One immediate impact for the Gophers, Pitino noted, is that the games, televised on the Big Ten Network, will provide a new audience.

“We’re recruiting a lot of kids from the metropolitan New York area, New Jersey,” said Pitino, himself of an East Coast background. “So I think it really benefits us talking to those guys about ‘Hey, we’re going to get you back to maybe play in Madison Square Garden, you’re going to play a Rutgers, you’re going to play at Maryland.’ ”

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