Gophers Basketball Logo

Blog

Gophers Basketball

Get the latest inside information on Gophers basketball

Gophers men's hoops to play Iowa State in closed scrimmage

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.

No love for Gophers in preseason men's basketball predictions

Flipping through college basketball magazines this fall, you'll notice there’s no preseason love for the Gophers men's basketball team going into the 2019-20 season. 

The Gophers went 22-14 and reached the NCAA tournament second round last season, but apparently preseason predictions can't look past Richard Pitino losing three starters, including Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy.

The highest predicted finish right now for the Gophers is 10th by Street & Smith's magazine, which officially hit newsstands Tuesday. Lindy’s Sports and Athlon Sports, already available in stores, picked the Gophers to finish 11th and 12th, respectively. There were no Gophers on All-Big Ten preseason teams, either.

Louisville’s a popular Final Four pick. But the team that ended the Cardinals season in March is picked to reach the NIT at best. That might frustrate Gophers fans, who flocked to Des Moines in force to see just how much their team outplayed Louisville. The Cardinals do return a lot, though.

There are bright spots for the Gophers in preseason annuals.

A small picture of sophomore center Daniel Oturu is featured on the top right corner of the Street & Smith's college basketball regional cover. Former Pittsburgh guard Marcus Carr is also among the impact transfers to watch (although Athlon used junior forward Eric Curry's picture for Carr). Pitino isn't featured among the coaches on the hot seat.

It was much easier for magazines to pick the Gophers as a bottom-half Big Ten team, because of so much unknown. Seven newcomers are the most for the program since 2004-05. They also have no returning All-Big Ten players after Coffey decided to leave early for the NBA.

Oturu and sophomore Gabe Kalscheur, the U’s two returning starters, aren’t getting the same preseason hype as players who made the All-Big Ten freshmen team last season. Is that fair? Oturu and Kalscheur were snubbed IMO. They together led all Big Ten freshmen in several categories.

Bottom line, though, most college coaches don’t care about predictions. Pitino isn't any different. There are no trophies for preseason awards or accolades. It might even be better for Minnesota’s players to see the lack of respect and use it as bulletin board material to prove doubters wrong. We'll see if they can do that quickly during a tough stretch in November and early December.

Not many college hoops observers have gone out on a limb for the Gophers with preseason picks during Pitino’s tenure, but it has happened before. They were picked as high as second by Athlon after reaching the NCAA tournament in 2017, but injuries and suspension turned high expectations into disappointment.

Below is a breakdown of where the Gophers have been picked by preseason magazines between 2013-19 and where they finished in the Big Ten standings.

Season

Athlon

Lindy's

SN/S&S

Actual

13-14

9th

9th

9th

7th

14-15

9th

4th

9th

10th

15-16

12th

11th

13th

13th

16-17

12th

13th

12th

4th

17-18

2nd

3rd

4th

11th

18-19

11th

9th

4th

7th

19-20

12th

11th

10th

???

Bold – finished higher than at least two of predictions

Poll: How will the Vikings do against Oakland on Sunday?

See more polls