Minnesota has bounce-back in mind, starting with Green Bay
Green Bay traveled to Minnesota in Week 1 of the NFL season back in September, and Green Bay is at Minnesota on Wednesday, the first day of the college basketball season.
The teams from neighboring states and different conferences, equally thankful for the season’s arrival amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will square off in Minneapolis.
Despite all of the virus-induced uncertainty, sometimes on a day-by-day basis, the teams are happy to at least be scheduled to play.
“This is not even a little bit normal,” Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said during his team’s media day. “Normally you get eight weeks in the summer where you get them acclimated. That was pretty much optional for us this summer. A lot of guys stayed home. We didn’t have everybody. The preseason is not even close to normal.”
The Golden Gophers had to pause team activities earlier this month due to virus issues but have since resumed practicing.
Minnesota is coming off a 15-16 season that saw the Gophers finish 12th in the Big 10 (8-12) after making the NCAA Tournament in 2019.
Minnesota will have to replace the production of one of the league’s best big men from last year, Daniel Oturu, who was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft (33rd overall) by the Minnesota Timberwolves, then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Golden Gophers’ strength should be on the perimeter, where guard Marcus Carr averaged 15.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds a game last year as a sophomore. Carr also set a school record for assists in a season (207).
Flanking Carr is junior sharpshooter Gabe Kalscheur, who averaged 11.6 points a game last year and led the Big Ten in 3-pointers attempted and made per game.
Minnesota could also be helped by the return of fifth-year senior Eric Curry, who missed the entire season in 2019-20 due to a knee injury.
“He makes me look like a better coach and makes me feel like a better coach,” Pitino said of Curry. “He does the right things, and he just understands how to play.”
The game will mark the head-coaching debut for Green Bay’s Will Ryan, who was hired in June after the firing of Linc Darner the month before.
Ryan, the oldest son of former Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, previously was the head coach at Division II Wheeling University in West Virginia for one season.
Green Bay is coming off a third-place finish in the Horizon League at 11-7 (17-16 overall). The Phoenix are led by sophomore Amari Davis, who was the Freshman of the Year in the league last year after averaging 15.9 points and four rebounds per game.
Green Bay was picked to finish eighth in this year’s preseason league poll.
“We have some nice pieces returning and newcomers coming in,” Ryan said at his introductory press conference. “I feel confident in that regard, that we have a nice cast. Just take it day by day. That’s the best we can do.”
–Field Level Media