The Gophers men’s basketball team won’t be playing at U.S. Bank Stadium this year as previously planned, but the test game before the 2019 Final Four is expected to be in December 2018.
The original plan was for the Gophers to play a team yet to be determined this winter because extra seating is scheduled to be partially installed in the spring, but the game date was moved.
“Having the game closer to our event will make it a little bit more exciting and more of a draw,” said Kate Mortenson, President and CEO of the 2019 Final Four local organizing committee. “We don’t know the opponent yet, but it’s going to be exciting. Especially with the season the Gophers had really helps us position for a very exciting basketball event inside of U.S. Bank Stadium. Kind of a little taste of our Final Four in 2019.”
The Final Four in Minneapolis is scheduled for April 6-8, 2019. There is no NCAA regional set as a warmup in 2018. The University of Minnesota will be the host school for the 2018 game and the Final Four.
The NCAA will attend the test game and event to make sure the stadium meets its basketball standards for the Final Four. Mortenson said the date of the opponent announcement and when tickets will be available are not known at this time.
"But we will be aiming to make it an event unto itself in addition to the 'test game'," she said. "It's a big deal."
Gophers coach Richard Pitino said last year that he was working with the U to “bring in a really good opponent.” The fact that the game was moved to 2018 means that next year’s recruiting class will get to play at U.S. Bank Stadium.
That should be big selling point for Minnesota’s 2018 class, which already includes Cretin-Derham Hall four-star junior big man Daniel Oturu. But Pitino is also targeting other local players in the class, such as Apple Valley’s Tre Jones, Armstrong’s Race Thompson and DeLaSalle’s Gabe Kalschuer.
Which opponent would you like to see play the Gophers? North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Louisville?
Pitino has said numerous times he doesn’t want to play his father, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, again. So that might not happen. Minnesota’s recent success as an NCAA tournament team this year and a potential top 25 team entering next season could scare some high-profile programs from coming. But they also have to consider the advantage of playing in the Final Four venue before a potential appearance the following year.