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Gophers basketball managers best in nation, eyeing Manager Games glory

The student managers are the top-ranked team in the Manager Games league.
Image by Nick Gag (courtesy)
“My favorite moment was winning the Asheville Championship my first year as a manager,” Dillion said.

First considered an “underground” basketball league, Manager Games became official when teams started to keep track of records in 2014. A decade later, a team of Gophers basketball staff members will head to their version of March Madness.

The 64-team bracket will be announced on Monday, with the Gophers likely being named the first seed. The top eight teams in the 64-team tournament will head to Phoenix, Arizona to play for a national title.

According to Nick Gag, a graduate manager with the team since 2018, the managers play a multifaceted role. Day-to-day assignments for the managers include stocking fridges, doing laundry and playing the role of the scout team.

Gophers basketball forward Kadyn Betts said the managers always give the players a good look at their upcoming opponent during practices.

“We know all [the other team’s] plays, it helps us adapt,” Betts said. “We will know their moves and what tendencies they have. It gives us a great look and it’s almost like we are playing against them.”

When they take the court themselves, the Gophers managers are 6-0, winning by an average of 14.3 points per game, and ranked first in the nation according to Faktor. This is Minnesota’s first season in the top 10 within Faktor’s ranking system.

Rounding out the top 10, from highest to lowest, are Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Michigan State, Arkansas, Marquette and Charleston.

Ike Dillion, a senior manager with the Gophers and guard-forward on the manager team, said he appreciates the environment around the team.

“Being a part of this program means a lot to me,” Dillion said. “It’s a second family.”

Gag said that Manager Games allows them to play organized basketball again and, in some cases, play against prominent names.

“A year or two ago we played against Matt McQuaid, who played on Michigan State’s Final Four team,” Gag said. “We played against Dru Joyce III, who was LeBron’s high school point guard.”

Gag added that being ranked first gives them confidence heading into the tournament and has also given them some notoriety. StrictlyBball, a popular TikTok account with 2.4 million followers, recently posted a video on the Gopher managers. 

Dinkytown Athletes has picked up on the trend, too, selling shirts dubbing the Gopher managers “America’s Team.”

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