Selection Sunday officially kicks off the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, otherwise known as March Madness, in four days. The Gophers, however, who hope to get a No. 1 seed and reach the Final Four, are already thinking about Midnight Madness, seven months away.
Midnight Madness, the symbolic opening of the new college basketball season, doesn’t hold the significance the tournament does. In itself, the day is just a glamorized practice full of dunks and loud player introductions.
But what it represents to teams is just as important. The players who walk onto the court can decide whether they will be sweating it out Selection Sunday a year from now. This year’s Gophers, No. 2 in the nation with a 26-2 record, are in. They just have to wait and see who and where they play.
Gophers coach Clem Haskins brought trainer Roger Schipper and assistant coach Larry Davis to his weekly press conference on Tuesday to talk about the future. Specifically, who will be on the court next year.
Schipper spoke on behalf of Kevin Loge, a 6-foot-10 forward, and Kyle Sanden, a 6-foot-11 center, two freshmen who redshirted this season because of injuries.
Sanden, who redshirted Nov. 21 after two concussions he received during the first month of practice, has had headaches all season and hasn’t been able to participate in contact drills during practice.
The headaches are exercise induced.
Schipper said the headaches aren’t as severe as they once were and aren’t showing up as much as they had in the past. He also said Sanden’s spirits have picked up the past few weeks.
“He’s doing a really nice job as far as fitting in and really accepting what happened to him,” he said. “We look for the best. Hopefully we can get him playing some type of basketball in the spring or summer.”
Schipper isn’t sure what kind of hit Sanden could take without injuring himself again.
Loge, who partially severed the fifth finger of his left hand in a hunting accident last fall, has worn a splint on his finger all year. Schipper said Loge is back in shape and has practiced against centers John Thomas and Trevor Winter.
Both Loge and Sanden have been in the weight room and have added substantial muscle to their frames. Before the season Loge weighed 228 pounds. He’s now up to 245. Sanden weighed 235 and is now up to 255.
Both will be looked upon to try and replace Winter and Thomas, who both use up their eligibility after this season. Haskins said he wanted to play one of the two this year, but didn’t know which one it might have been.
Davis, who heads the Gophers’ recruiting efforts, said the team has four available scholarships to give next season. He said the team hopes to sign two guards, one big man and one swingman. At least one of those recruits is likely to come from the junior college ranks.
The Gophers have signed four junior college transfers since Haskins arrived at Minnesota 11 years ago.
“It wouldn’t hurt us to have another big body on the front line that is a little bit older too,” he said. “There are some high school kids who we’re looking at who would be able to play right away. Freshmen are our preference because you have them for four years.”
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from talking about individual players until they are signed.
Davis said he has noticed a difference with recruits’ interest in the program since the Gophers moved up to No. 2 this year.
“We’re involved with a lot of kids,” Davis said. “A lot of people are willing to listen. There are plenty of players out there left. We’re excited about a lot of the kids we’re involved with.”
He hopes some of those top players still want to come to Minnesota despite not having guaranteed playing time.
“Early on we scared a kid or two off,” he said. “The flip side of it is when you call up, they’re interested.”