Uncertainty hangs over Gophers’ basketball schedule

With under a month until the season starts, the Gophers, along with countless college basketball teams, are yet to know their schedules.

Players+on+the+Gophers+bench+observe+those+on+the+court+at+Williams+Arena+on+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+15.++Minnesota+defeated+the+Penn+State+Nittany+Lions+75-69

Kamaan Richards

Players on the Gophers bench observe those on the court at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Minnesota defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 75-69

AJ Condon

In a normal year, head coach Richard Pitino and his team would be under two weeks from starting their season. This year has been everything but normal, and the Gophers’ men’s basketball team is feeling that effect.

The season was scheduled to start Nov. 10 but has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of the season being delayed, the NCAA has also delayed the start date of practice. Scrimmages and exhibition games will not be allowed, and the season will be condensed.

That first day of the season, officially, was Oct. 15. The Gophers are only allowed 30 practices in the 42 days before the season gets underway.

The number of games played always is dependent on the teams’ ability to win in the Big Ten tournament, as well as in the NIT or NCAA tournament, granted the Gophers make it. Originally, the schedule was going to be 31 games, but that has since changed.

The season is set to start Nov. 25 and will feature no more than 27 games. Ordinarily, with the season set to start just under a month away, Pitino and his team would have expectations as to who they would be going up against.

It’s easy to think generally about the teams that the Gophers will face. That isn’t the question that’s still up in the air. The lingering question is the non-conference games the Gophers will participate in.

When asked about what the schedule will look like, Pitino said, “I can’t confirm anything.” He added they are waiting for the Big Ten schedule to get solidified, so they can work around that.

Originally, the Gophers were set to play in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off starting Nov. 21. The team was scheduled to face UCF in the first round with the winner playing either Rhode Island or Marquette.

Pitino, again, was asked if he could confirm whether or not the Gophers would be participating in this tournament. He responded, “We’re not even close to confirming that yet, so I just don’t know.”

Now, there are three new teams that have taken the spots of the Gophers, Eagles and Knights in the Naismith bracket. Virginia Tech, Temple and South Florida have filled up the three spots, and the tournament is set to start Nov. 28.

The Gophers will miss out in the Hall of Fame tournament, but their first game of the season was announced Friday. As a part of the 2020 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Gophers will host Boston College on Dec. 8.

Though there still is a lot of uncertainty with the season amidst the pandemic, Pitino wants one thing for his team — safety.

“We want what’s best for the players from a safety standpoint. We want to make sure that whoever we are playing, they’re following the same type of protocols that we are,” Pitino said. “Travel creates another element that becomes an issue and so we’re trying to work our way through that.”