pitinoLast year, through 25 games of Richard Pitino’s first season with the Gophers, Minnesota was 16-9 and 5-7 in the Big Ten.

Pitino was often praised for his work with the Gophers, primarily because of a 4-3 conference start boosted by a home win over rival Wisconsin.

This year, through 25 games of Pitino’s second season with the Gophers, Minnesota is 16-9 and 5-7 in the Big Ten.

Pitino has often been criticized for his work with the Gophers, primarily because of an 0-5 start that included many close losses down the stretch.

Point being: The perception of a season has more to do with the order of how things happen than we might realize. These Gophers seasons are remarkably similar overall, but Minnesota had an easier schedule early last year and took advantage — thus creating the impression of overachieving.

This year, Minnesota started with a tough haul: three road games in the first four. The Gophers faded down the stretch in a couple of those games and lost two close home games. Suddenly the expectations created by last year’s season — based mostly off that good start, since Minnesota struggled down the stretch — were seemingly unmet.

And yes, expectations were deservedly greater this year because last year’s team won the NIT and had senior guards returning. Maybe in that regard, the team’s standing right now is still a disappointment.

But compared to last year? It’s exactly the same, just arranged differently.

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