Everything Rides on Gophers vs Hawkeyes Sunday… Especially In-State Recruiting

Richard Pitino has the added bonus of answering questions about his dad while preparing for the NCAA tournament. (AP)

We finally get to watch Gopher Men’s Basketball again on Sunday, when the Iowa Hawkeyes cross their northern border. It’s been awhile… we haven’t played since last Saturday, meaning Sunday will mark the eighth day without our favorite college basketball team…

When Sunday does roll around, just about the entire season rides on a win. The Gophers are barely floating above .500 (12-11), with just 7 games to play before the Big Ten Tournament.

Joe Lunardi currently has the Gophers as one of the “First Four Out” in his bracket of 68. The Gophers probably need to get to 18 wins to be comfortably in the NCAA Tournament, even with our still-high NET rating (40).

That’s if you don’t want to rely on wins in the Big Ten Tourney, in order to dance in March. Have you watched an Big Ten basketball this season? That’s not something the Gophers want to fall back on.

Really, Pitino and Co. need to win their next three games or this season could go down the pooper quickly. They have Iowa and Indiana at The Barn Sunday and Wednesday, respectively. Then, they travel to Evanston to play Northwestern, who is being drug across the bottom of the Big Ten again.

After that, we’ll welcome #9 Maryland to Williams Arena before traveling to Wisconsin and Illinois. Then, we end the season at home with a cake-walk vs Nebraska.

Sun, Feb 16vs 21 Iowa12:00 PMFS1
Wed, Feb 19vs Indiana8:00 PMBTN
Sun, Feb 23@ Northwestern2:00 PMBTN
Wed, Feb 26vs Maryland8:00 PMBTN
Sun, Mar 1@ Wisconsin5:30 PMBTN
Wed, Mar 4@ Indiana6:00 PMBTN
Sun, Mar 8vs Nebraska12:00 PMBTN

There is a lot more going on during Sunday’s matchup however, than just the basketball battle on the raised floor of Williams Arena. Because in the world of high-level college sports, RECRUITING never sleeps.

Richard Pitino and the Gophers will be hosting a handful of top in-state recruits for 2021 and 2022, on Sunday. When I say handful of top kids… I really mean, all of the top in-state kids that Richard has his targets set on.

Chet Holmgren | Minnehaha Academy

Prince Aligbe | Minnehaha Academy

Tre Holloman | Cretin-Derham Hall

We all know about the issues Richard Pitino has had keeping the top kids around the state of Minnesota, to stick around and lead their own Gopher basketball team to heights it’s never been to (technically).

This has been the biggest drain on Pitino’s Minnesota legacy, by far, since he arrived. It’s tough to land 5-star kids who aren’t from Minnesota… but it might be even harder to see all of our 5-stars leave and lead other top schools on deep NCAA Tournament runs.

Here is a list of some of the best Minnesota-raised talent out there doing it for other schools, this year:

This isn’t even a complete list. Just across the border to the East, Nate Reuvers and Brad Davison are Wisconsin’s best players and both are from Minnesota.

In other words, Pitino’s #1 job right now, should be keeping in-state talent around. If he had been able to do that over the last few years, we wouldn’t be talking about a .500 basketball team that is trying desperately just to get into the tournament.

So, Iowa is a big win because we need the W to realistically dream about dancing in March AND we need it so our MN-raised kids want to stay here and go to the future dances with us.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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