Gophers senior guard Nate Mason missed practice with a hip injury, but he’s expected to play Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament opening round against Rutgers, coach Richard Pitino said.
Mason, who averaged a team-high 18.6 points in Big Ten play, has been playing through pain in his hips and from a bruise on his right shin suffered last week against Wisconsin.
Pitino said Mason missed practice Monday and will also rest Tuesday before the team heads to New York.
“His hips have been hurting him, so we’ll rest him,” Pitino said. “This has been going on a little bit, so he’s not been practicing all the time. He’s just had it, and maybe it’s just wear and tear a little bit. I expect him to play, but it’s been difficult from a practice standpoint.”
Pitino also said starting center Bakary Konate was out of practice Monday with the flu, but he’s feeling better and hopes to return soon. Konate, a 6-foot-11 senior, was sick Sunday, but he had two points and three rebounds in 25 minutes in an 80-64 loss at Purdue to end the regular season.
The Gophers (14-15, 4-14 in conference) have struggled to find enough players for a full practice for over a month. Starters Reggie Lynch (suspension and expulsion) and Amir Coffey (shoulder surgery) have been out for most of the Big Ten season.
Junior guard Dupree McBrayer hasn’t practiced since late December when he was sidelined with a lower left leg injury. McBrayer, who was limited to six minutes in the second half against Purdue, is a game-time decision for Wednesday against Rutgers.
Pitino said a month after the season ends, McBrayer will be evaluated to see if surgery is needed to make a full recovery for next season. He's battled through injuries on both legs since last summer.
“I think once the season ends, we’ll give him some time off and go from there,” Pitino said. “I thought versus Purdue it was hard, because I’ve had to watch. I tried to get him in and out a little bit sooner. He just was hobbling, so we took him out.”
NOT OK WITH NYC
Pitino already addressed his displeasure with missing a home game to play Ohio State at Madison Square Garden in January, so he didn’t hold back frustration over having the conference tourney in New York this week.
The Gophers have been one of the teams hit the hardest with the condensed schedule this year. Conference games started in early December and were played Monday through Sunday to make sure the Big Ten tournament could be a week earlier at MSG.
“I’m sick of New York,” Pitino joked. “I just hate what it’s done to our schedule. We’ve had four one-day preps. Some teams have had one. That’s not ideal. We’ve had one less home game than everybody else. There are so many factors that go into it that make it difficult.”
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told the Chicago Tribune recently that the conference wouldn’t have another season where games were so jam-packed together.
“I don’t love the whole thing to be quite honest,” Pitino said. “Not that I don’t love New York. I love New York. I don’t like what it’s done to our schedule … Playing a week early makes it even more difficult. I just don’t think the reward is there. I understand we need to be on the East Coast, but I think there are other ways you can do it.”