11:15 a.m. Thursday • Des Moines (Ch. 4; 100.3-FM)
Preview: The Gophers (21-13) are vying for their first NCAA tournament victory since 2013 when they take on Louisville (20-13). This is the second tourney appearance in six seasons for coach Richard Pitino, who lost 81-72 to Middle Tennessee in 2017. Pitino’s father, Rick, coached the Cardinals for 16 seasons, including three years with Richard on staff. The Gophers are 3-3 vs. Louisville, which included Pitino losing to his dad 81-68 in the last game in the series in Puerto Rico in 2014. Louisville finished tied for sixth in the ACC.
Players to watch: Gophers junior guard Amir Coffey saw his streak of 20-point games end at five in a row after he scored 14 on 7-for-12 shooting in Saturday’s 76-49 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. Coffey had zero free-throw attempts for the first time in five games. Louisville sophomore Jordan Nwora leads the team in scoring (17.2) and rebounding (7.5). The 6-7 forward was the most improved scorer in Division I this season with an improvement of 11.5 points per game from last season.
Key matchup: Frontcourt vs. frontcourt. Minnesota appears pretty evenly matched inside in the starting lineup with senior Jordan Murphy and freshman Daniel Oturu matched up with Nwora and sophomore Malik Williams. Going to the bench is where Pitino might be at a disadvantage. Senior backup center Matz Stockman (concussion) might not play Thursday. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have 6-10, 260-pound junior Steve Enoch, who averages 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds as a sixth man.MARCUS FULLER