It’s March Madness and the Minnesota Gophers are done for the season. That sucks for a lot of reasons but it doesn’t mean we need to sulk in our maroon and gold depression while everyone else enjoys the dance. Beyond your office bracket pools and the millions of dollars being wagered this weekend, Gopher basketball fans are on the watch for their next men’s head basketball coach.
Lucky for us, most of the rumored candidates are coaching their current team in the NCAA Tournament this weekend. It’s a perfect time for Gopher fans to scout out their favorite possible replacement, as the competition heats up. There has been Minnesota steam behind all of these candidates. We’ll start with the best-seeded teams and move down.
Eric Musselman | Arkansas: 3-seed | vs Colgate (14) – 11:45 AM Friday
If I could have my pick of any rumored to be available head coach in the country, it would be Eric Musselman. This is a guy who wins everywhere he goes and his tenure at Arkansas has been no different. But this matchup vs Colgate, which is the second game of the day today, might be my favorite of the entire first round. The Colgate Raiders have only played 15 games this season and they have won all but one of them.
TeamRankings.com only has Arkansas winning 51% of the time when they run simulations and Colgate is actually my Cinderella team of the tournament. Read more on Musselman HERE.
Can’t wait for the Arkansas vs Colgate game at 11:45. Toothpaste U is my 2021 Cinderella but they have to get past Muss first…— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) March 19, 2021
Mike Boynton | Oklahoma State: 4-seed | vs Liberty (13) – 5:25 PM Friday
Mike Boynton’s name came out of nowhere to enter the Minnesota head coach candidate rumors. We’re talking about the dude who landed Cade Cunningham, who will be the 1st pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. I first saw Boynton mentioned as a possibility for Minnesota in an article out of The Athletic last week. And the deeper you look into Mike and his current situation, the more sense a move makes.
Oklahoma State is lucky to be competing in this tournament. They’ve been waiting all season long for discipline to be handed down by the NCAA for past recruiting violations. The process is sitting in appeals right now and that’s why OSU can compete in 2021. But 2022 will be a different story. And that’s why most expect Boynton to bounce after this season, along with Cade Cunningham.
Brian Dutcher | San Diego State: 6-seed | vs Syracuse (11) – 8:40 PM Friday
Everyone knows the story on Dutcher. If you want more, read HERE. Brian Dutcher is one of many Mountain West candidates whose name has floated around the Minnesota job. His dad, Jim Dutcher, had a decade-long stretch of success as Gopher head coach back in the 70’s and 80’s. Brian’s special Minnesota buyout of $1 million specifically written into his SDSU contract, compared to the $6+ million any other school would have to pay, shows his interest. The Gophers have always been Dutcher’s dream job and a lot of his family, including his aging father, are still in the Twin Cities.
But first, Dutcher is concerned with beating Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orangemen. San Diego is the higher seed in this game but they are only favored by three points.
Porter Moser | Loyola Chicago – 8-seed | vs Georgia Tech – 3:00 PM Friday
Porter Moser isn’t someone I have looked that deeply into but he is the favorite for others. Not only is he gettable, coaching at a mid-major school like Loyola Chicago, but he took that mid-major school to a Final Fucking Four in 2018. Think about that.
Moser’s squad in Chicago is 97-35 in their last four seasons and he will have his choice in a lot of Power-5 jobs should he want one. Georgia Tech came out of nowhere and won the ACC Tournament (after Duke dropped out). They’re hot but one of the most susceptible 9-seeds in the tournament.
Craig Smith | Utah State: 11-seed | vs Texas Tech (6) – 12:45 PM Friday
Another Mountain West coach with Minnesota ties, Craig Smith is a likeable and energetic guy that Minnesota fans would completely fall in love with. Read more on him HERE. Many have Smith as the favorite to land Pitino’s old job and if Coyle is looking for a dynamite hire at a bargain bin cost, Craig could very-well be the next head coach at the University of Minnesota. That would make for a lot of bald heads at the University of Minnesota Athletic Department.
Minnesota born Craig Smith, the Head Coach of Utah State, has his team dancing once again, this time as an 11 seed. The Aggies will face 6 seed Texas Tech. pic.twitter.com/A0Hb098mhz— Ryan James (@RyanJamesMN) March 14, 2021
Because they won the Mountain West Tournament in 2020 before everything was canceled by COVID-19, Smith has now qualified Utah State for the NCAA Tournament three times in three years. His record during that tenure is 74-23. Craig and his Aggies will have their hands full with Texas Tech today, however. Utah State is a 4-point underdog.
Dennis Gates | Cleveland State – 15-seed | vs Houston (2) – 6:15 PM Friday
Enjoy Dennis Gates while you can today. This game isn’t expected to be close. Houston is favored over Gates’ Cleveland State squad, by 20+ points. If the Vikings were to pull of an upset of this caliber, Dennis Gates’ stock would immediately skyrocket.
Gates, however, is only in his second year as a college head coach and that’s probably not the route Coyle wants to go (again) with this hire. But, after only winning 11 games all of last season, he turned the Cleveland State program around, went 19-7 in 2021 during a pandemic, and made the NCAA Tournament. That’s certainly worth something.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan