Long after the Richard Pitino was announced as the Gopher men's basketball coach on April 3, 2013 ending a 10-day search after Tubby Smith was shown the door. While fans clamored for VCU bench boss Shaka Smart and automatically assumed he would follow his former boss and current Gophers Athletic Director, Norwood Teague used the same process in his hiring of Pitino. Find a young coach with a similar mindset and approach to the game and success would follow.
What's the old saying ‘if it aint' broke don't fix it'?
So in came Richard and he energized the fan base with his blood line and promise of a pressing defensive system and free-to-shoot offense and through 17 games, unlike his predecessor has not pumped the brakes in conference play and has stuck with continuous pressure defense that has resulted in this group being 2-2 with losses to Michigan and Michigan State that could have just of easily been wins.
Yes, they are a frustrating watch at times offensively and way to often have long spurts in which they don't score. That will need to change, but this Gopher team is not afraid to shoot the ball no matter how much time is on the shot clock. True, they watched Michigan State battle back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead, but on the road, they played tough down the stretch, hit a couple of big shots and forced overtime. We'll file how they played in OT under their offensive problems.
The next 10 days is a brutal stretch of the schedule. With home games against Ohio State and Wisconsin and a road trip to Iowa City sandwiched in between, a win in any game is going to be hard to come by. The Gophers are hanging with their conference foes despite sub-normal play from senior Austin Hollins who has slumped offensively in Big 10 play.
Three-ball or bust:
Through 17 games, the Gophers have attempted 975 field goals. Of those, more than a third (388), have been from three-point range.
Here is the Gophers shot selection during Big 10 games:
at Michigan State- 57 FGA – 26 3PA (46%)
at Penn State – 51 FGA – 16 3PA (31%)
Purdue- 46 FGA – 24 3PA (52%)
Michigan- 53 FGA – 19 3PA (36%)
The Gophers have attempted more three pointers (388), and made more from deep (136) than any other team in the Big 10. They have made 89 field goals during conference play and only 9 of those came from locations on the floor other than three-point range or in the paint. In the first two conference games, they shot a combined 2-9 from places on the floor other than the paint or from three.
If the 20-win mark remains as the goal to get into the NCAA tournament, the Gophers need seven wins in their final 14 games (not taking into account the Big 10 tournament).
Ohio State; Wisconsin; Northwestern; Indiana; Illinois; Iowa; Penn State
Of the home schedule, Northwestern, Indiana and Penn State mark the easier of the win possibilities while Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa are all ranked in the top 25.
Iowa; Nebraska; Purdue; Wisconsin; Northwestern; Ohio State; Michigan
Nothing will come easy on the road, but Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue represent the easier matchups. The Gophers defeated Purdue in a tight game at Williams Arena.
In order to get to 20 wins, the Gophers have zero room for error and need to pick up an upset along the way. Illinois and Ohio State are tied with the Gophers at 2-2 in the conference and the games are possible wins.