After the Gophers men's basketball team was ripped apart by South Dakota State for its second consecutive loss Tuesday night, coach Richard Pitino suggested he might make some changes.
"You've got to be open to anything," he said following the 84-70 loss. "You really do. Obviously what we're doing is not working, so I've got to look myself in the mirror and figure this thing out."
Pitino didn't give any hint to what he might tweak before Saturday's game against Oklahoma State, but here are three ideas he could consider:
Going small will lead to less-than-ideal matchups against some teams, but let's face it: Nothing is ideal for this squad so far. You play what you've got, and the Gophers' best players are guards and smallish forwards.
And the reality is the Gophers have displayed their best energy and effectiveness when they've gone small. Looking at the past four games, Minnesota is minus-27 when going "big" — that is, with a center on the court — and plus-19 when they've gone "small."
Reward the youth
Tuesday night, Pitino sent in three freshmen and two sophomores to finish the game because he felt they were the ones competing the hardest. Lately, the coach has been punishing two starters, senior guard Carlos Morris and redshirt junior forward Charles Buggs, for dumb mistakes or not exerting enough effort on defense.
Meanwhile, we've seen some really clutch moments from freshman guard Kevin Dorsey, who while out of control at times is the definition of a gamer, and freshman forward Jordan Murphy, who even when he's not dominating has been pretty steady. Why not switch up the starting five and give the youngsters a chance? Even freshman guard Dupree McBrayer showed more life Tuesday than we've seen from Morris in the past three games, driving at the hoop and getting to the line.
Strengthen the bond
Send the team through an obstacle course blindfolded, or take them on an "Escape Room" field trip, or force them to take a cooking class where they have to eat the final product of their teammates … anything to get the players to start communicating, taking charge and figuring out what role they play in a leadership hierarchy. Heck, maybe they'd have a little fun, too.
It's a long season. The lack of communication was a big theme in the postgame locker room. These ideas sound a little hokey, sure, but a shake-up seems necessary.