Gophers’ hoops opens up against Green Bay

After a long wait, the Gophers’ opening day game has been set. Just like much of the season, the time is still uncertain.

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Parker Johnson

Gophers Head Coach Richard Pitino looks on from the sidelines during a free throw attempt at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 26. The Gophers entered the second half with a 47-31 lead over the Maryland Terrapins.

AJ Condon

The Gophers’ men’s basketball team finally knows more than just one of its nonconference opponents. On Nov. 25, the Gophers will host Green Bay at the Barn to open up their season.

The day of the game is set, but there is still uncertainty about the game time.

“We don’t even know what time we’re playing next Wednesday. You know, I had a parent call me and say, ‘Hey do you know the time?’ I’m like, ‘No I don’t.’ I’m not lying to you, we just don’t know,” head coach Richard Pitino said in a recent media availability.

Green Bay finished last season with a 17-16 overall record while finishing third in the Horizon Conference with a 11-7 record. Green Bay graduated its top scorer last season in JayQuan McCloud but returns now-sophomore Amari Davis who finished second with 15.9 points per game.

This season, leading up to opening day, has been as abnormal as Pitino has ever seen. Usually the team would have eight weeks in the summer to get acclimated. However, only optional workouts were allowed this summer.

And it isn’t just the summer that hasn’t been normal. The preseason has looked quite different as well. Usually there’s a maroon and gold scrimmage, a scrimmage versus a Division I opponent or even an exhibition game. The Gophers had none of that.

In a season the Gophers brought in three transfers and three freshmen, so Pitino wishes he had a normal offseason to “get the jitters out.” It’s been a different year for recruiting across the board and it shows.

“Brandon Johnson, Liam Robbins and Both Gach saw Williams Arena for the first time the other day,” Pitino said. “There’s going to be a mental adjustment for everybody, whether it’s the three freshmen or the transfers.”

The Gophers also had 24 other games announced for their schedule. Though Pitino is hoping for seven non-conference games, only five are on the schedule as of now. The Gophers will open up five of their first six games against non-Big Ten opponents.

For their first seven Big Ten opponents, Minnesota will be seeing ranked teams. Going into the season Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan are all ranked inside the top 25. Following their tough schedule right away, the Gophers will see just two more preseason ranked teams in its last ten games.

The Gophers will have a familiar face returning to the court in redshirt senior Eric Curry. Curry was recently named captain, and Pitino confirmed that he will be ready to play next Wednesday. He will be an important figure for these new assets to look up to both on and off the court.

Curry has gone through a lot in his career as a Gopher, including two different knee injuries that have continued to sideline the forward. He’s only played in 49 games in his career, including seven starts. Pitino speaks highly of his most experienced player and the positives he brings when on the court.

“He’s always been a good leader, but it’s just the challenging part has been staying on the court. We look better when he’s out there, we look better coached. He makes me look like a better coach, he makes me feel like a better coach,” Pitino said. “That experience factor is very, very important.”