ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

How improved is Gophers basketball? First road game may reveal

MINNEAPOLIS--Six straight games in Minneapolis has resulted in six wins and zero losses for a resurgent Gophers men's basketball team, an impressive opening in their quest to erase the memories of last season.

Nov 25, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Gophers forward Eric Curry (24) dribbles in the first half against the Southern Illinois Salukis forward Thik Bol (40) at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Gophers forward Eric Curry (24) dribbles in the first half against the Southern Illinois Salukis forward Thik Bol (40) at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS-Six straight games in Minneapolis has resulted in six wins and zero losses for a resurgent Gophers men's basketball team, an impressive opening in their quest to erase the memories of last season.

But although the friendly confines of Williams Arena have provided a cushioned start, coach Richard Pitino is about to learn a lot more about his young team.

For the first time this season, the Gophers take to the road tonight, visiting Florida State (5-1), a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 last week, in Tallahassee, Fla.

"I've got a good feel for where we're at," Pitino said. "But obviously whenever you go on the road it's a new challenge, a new test. I think every game provides a different measuring stick. I think it's a huge game for us to go try to get a quality win vs. a really good opponent - a really talented team and a well-coached team."

While the Gophers' unbeaten mark is impressive, Monday's game might yield the most evidence of where this team is in its rebuild from Big Ten cellar dweller.

ADVERTISEMENT

At home, Minnesota has beaten two major conference teams (St. John's and Arkansas) and a solid mid-major in Texas-Arlington. But Florida State is likely the most talented nonconference squad the Gophers will play, and Monday likely will be the first game in which they are underdogs.

"I think we've been tested," Pitino said. "I think Arlington was a great test, I think St. John's is much improved and very talented. I think Arkansas will be one of the better teams in the SEC. Every game is a test, and now we've got another test on the road. We're fortunate to be 6-0. Obviously we feel good about that, but we now know we've got to go win one on the road. That's tough to do."

If the Gophers are able to beat Florida State on the road, questions of whether this team can compete in the Big Ten will dissipate. A 6-0 start has shown that they're certainly improved from a season ago. But Monday may reveal how improved they are.

"It's a really good marker for us talent wise to see where we're at," sophomore forward Jordan Murphy said. "It's a talented team that Florida State has. A really big team as well. I think it'll be a good marker for us."

With two freshmen and zero seniors in the starting lineup in the Gophers' win over Southern Illinois on Friday, Minnesota has one of the youngest teams in the nation. Yet even the freshmen have talked among themselves about their eagerness to leave campus for a game.

"I'm really excited for it," said freshman Eric Curry, who made his first collegiate start Friday due to Reggie Lynch's ankle injury. "I'm not tired of playing in front of our fans, but I just really want to get that road and get the experience out of the way."

Added Pitino: "We're one of the youngest teams in the country. So when you've got young guys, you never know how they're going to respond. I know how the returners will be. But you don't know with any of the new guys. You just don't know. It'll be interesting to see. Hopefully they'll just lock in on the details."

What To Read Next
The league would launch in summer 2024 and is polling interest in possible host cities.
The Tuesday, Jan. 31, game between Sioux Falls Lincoln and Watertown was forced to move after junior JT Rock broke the rim with a powerful two-handed dunk. Rock is committed to play at Iowa State.
Hull was a five-time 50-goal scorer, led the NHL in goalscoring seven times, twice won the Hart Trophy and was voted a First-Team All-Star on the left wing 10 times.
Willmar beats the Minnesota Loons 9-6 on four 3rd-period goals