luciaWith four of the Gophers’ highest-profile teams having just finished their seasons while a fifth embarks on an interesting transition under a new head coach, this is a good time to take a look at the big-picture for all five programs.

1) Gophers men’s hockey

State of the program: In the grand scheme of things, Minnesota has made the NCAA tournament five of the past six seasons, including this year. In two of those years, the Gophers reached the Frozen Four. But their last three years — two one-and-dones in the tourney, including this year’s loss as a regional No. 1 seed to Notre Dame, and missing the NCAA field completely a year ago — are below this program’s high standards.

The big question: The Gophers are 14 years removed from their last NCAA championship. Head coach Don Lucia guided them to titles in 2002 and 2003, but fan unrest has mounted in recent years. Is he getting enough out of the team, and would it make sense to consider a coaching change?

2) Gophers men’s basketball

State of the program: Minnesota is on the upswing and feeling 1,000 percent better about its position relative to a year ago. The Gophers tripled their win total from eight to 24 and made the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed before being upended by Middle Tennessee. With almost the entire team coming back next season and talented newcomers joining the mix, the future is bright.

The big question: It can be hard to duplicate success and handle expectations. How will head coach Richard Pitino and his team fare next season under the weight of those things? The answer could mean the difference between an OK season and a special one.

3) Gophers women’s hockey

State of the program: Minnesota went to the Frozen Four for the sixth consecutive season. Though the Gophers came up short of a title this year, they’ve won four NCAA Championships since 2012. That’s a dynasty.

The big question: Can head coach Brad Frost, with a loaded incoming recruiting class, lead Minnesota to another NCAA title next season when the Frozen Four returns to Ridder Arena?

4) Gophers women’s basketball

State of the program: The Gophers went 11-7 in the Big Ten in Marlene Stollings’ first two seasons — making the NCAA field once and the NIT the other year — but slid to a 5-11 conference mark and a 15-16 overall record this year, missing the postseason. Minnesota allowed 74.5 points per game this past season, ranking No. 332 out of 345 Division I programs.

The big question: Was this season a one-year dip or the start of a downward trend for the Gophers under Stollings?

5) Football

State of the program: It’s unmistakably a new era, with the up-tempo (to put it mildly) P.J. Fleck taking over as head coach for Tracy Claeys, who was let go after a scandal-filled 9-4 season. Fleck is the first to say that he’s not for everyone — and some early transfers from the program might speak to that notion.

The big question: Will Fleck be able to keep the Gophers on an upward trajectory next season as he builds for the future, or will there be a step back before we can judge evidence of a step forward?

Older Post

Sam Ponder talks about covering husband Christian in new ESPN role

Newer Post

Ready for this? 'Wide Left,' a Vikings documentary of the last 20 years