STrib: Gophers men's basketball has nowhere to go but up


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Nov 11, 2008
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per Marcus:

For Richard Pitino, the pressure is on for a big turnaround season. Getting back to the postseason for the first time since his NIT title run in his first year is the goal for the fourth-year Gophers men’s basketball coach and his team.

But what are realistic expectations coming off an eight-win season? Doubling the win total? Reaching 20 victories? NIT?

Entering Friday’s opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, an NCAA tournament run seems far-fetched for a team that finished a lowly 2-16 in the Big Ten last season. But college basketball history, and even recently in the Big Ten, has proved that significant single-season turnarounds are possible with the right pieces in place.

In the past decade, Indiana (2011-12), Penn State (2010-11) and Illinois (2008-09) went from losing to winning records with at least an eight-win improvement from the previous year to reach the NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers experienced the biggest jump in that span: In Tom Crean’s fourth season, he turned Indiana around from 12-20 to 27-9 and a Sweet 16 appearance.

The biggest one-year turnaround in Gophers history is 11 wins. In 2007-08, Tubby Smith inherited a then-program-worst 9-22 team and finished 20-14 in his first year. Can the program make another double-digit jump in wins this season under Pitino?

“It’s realistic because the middle of the Big Ten is wide open,” Big Ten Network analyst Jon Crispin said. “Obviously, if you look at the top with Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue, Michigan State and maybe even Maryland, those teams are probably going to sit at the top of the Big Ten throughout the season. But the middle of the pack is where it gets real interesting for particularly Minnesota and Illinois. They don’t see themselves as the same teams. That’s why year in and year out, there’s always a team that makes a huge leap. And I think that’s Illinois and Minnesota this year.”

Go Gophers!!
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