The Gophers men’s basketball team is close to its first sellout in two seasons with Saturday’s game against Wisconsin at Williams Arena.
There were 400 seats available (capacity is 14,625) for the Border Battle as of Thursday evening, according to a team spokesman. The team’s last sellout was the Wisconsin game in March 2015.
This season so far has been a ticket-selling challenge, not surprising coming off an 8-23 season.
The Gophers rank 11th in the Big Ten in attendance with an announced average of 9,091 fans after 13 games. But their 12-1 nonconference start helped draw bigger crowds for the first two Big Ten games, with 11,407 showing up for the Big Ten opener against Michigan State Dec. 27 and 11,267 for the Ohio State game Jan. 8.
Minnesota lost two consecutive road games after being ranked 24th in the country, so the home crowd never got to cheer on a top-25 team at the Barn. But the Gophers (15-4, 3-3) are still in NCAA tournament contention heading into one of the biggest home games against their rival Badgers in years.
Last season, the Gophers played in front of a non-sellout crowd (12,275) against Wisconsin at home for the first time since the 2006-07 season when it finished 9-22. Former Gophers coach Tubby Smith’s teams sold out every game against the Badgers during his six seasons from 2007 to ’13.
Fourth-year Gophers coach Richard Pitino’s teams have sold out home games three times in his tenure (vs. Indiana and Wisconsin in 2013-14 and vs. Wisconsin in 2014-15). The Gophers beat No. 9 Wisconsin 81-68 in Pitino’s first season in front of a sellout crowd. But a Gopher victory Saturday over the Badgers could arguably be an even bigger win, considering this is Pitino’s most talented team.