Practice officially opens for the Gophers men’s basketball team on Tuesday. The first true test against an opponent, though, is a Oct. 19 scrimmage at Iowa State, sources told the Star Tribune on Friday.
Richard Pitino and his coaching staff will have less than a month of practice before heading to Ames with a 2019-20 squad that features seven newcomers, the most for the program since 2004-05.
What’s the value of scrimmaging Iowa State this year? The Gophers have a grueling nonconference schedule that includes six major conference opponents: Oklahoma, Butler, Utah, Clemson, DePaul and Oklahoma State. Four of those games are away from home.
The Cyclones finished 23-12 last season after losing to Ohio State in the NCAA tournament first round. The Gophers defeated Creighton in a scrimmage in Omaha last season. They also lost at Iowa State in a scrimmage in 2014.
Division I college basketball teams are allowed two exhibition games before each season, per NCAA rules. Many programs play one exhibition against a lower division opponent at home and schedule what’s known as a “secret scrimmage” vs. a similar-level opponent.
Recaps and stats are released after secret scrimmages, but the schools can’t announce the scrimmage or allow fans or media to attend. The Gophers lone exhibition game open to the public will be 7 p.m. on Oct. 28 vs. Southwest Minnesota State at Williams Arena.
Sophomores Daniel Oturu and Gabe Kalscheur are the starters returning from a 22-14 Minnesota team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament after beating Louisville. Early preseason predictions have the Gophers finishing no better than 10th in the Big Ten. Still, Pitino hopes to have a surprise team with transfers Marcus Carr, Payton Willis and Alihan Demir expected to make an immediate impact.
Iowa State lost three starters from a team that defeated Kansas to win the Big 12 tournament title last season, including NBA second-round draft picks Talen Horton-Tucker and Marial Shayok. Steve Prohm still returns sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton, a 2020 NBA Draft prospect, and former Nebraska forward Michael Jacobson. The Cyclones also added Colorado State graduate transfer Prentiss Nixon and Penn State transfer Rasir Bolton, but Bolton is still waiting for a waiver to be eligible to play this season.