There’s nothing wrong with losing to nationally-ranked top-15 teams on the road. That’s been the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ biggest problem during this Big Ten basketball season. That fact should be a positive thing.
After losing tonight @ Michigan, Richard Pitino’s 2020-21 squad has now racked up just THREE losses in 13 games this season. Yes, all three have come vs teams ranked in the top-15, nationally.
As a 10-3 team w/impressive home wins, there's no shame in your only losses coming vs top-15 ranked teams on the road. Being embarrassed in all of them, however, is a problem. #Gophers
12/15 @ #13 ILL: 65-92 (-27)
12/31 @ #6 WIS: 59-71 (-12)
1/6 @ #10 MICH: 57-82 (-25)— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) January 7, 2021
Not “who” but “how”…
But it hasn’t been about who the Gophers have lost to… it’s been about HOW they’ve lost. Start with the Big Ten opener @ Illinois. After running a mediocre train on their mediocre non-conference schedule, the Gophers went into Champagne and got absolutely stomped by the #13 Illini, 92-65.
But when they next hit the road against #6 Wisconsin, Minnesota got their asses handed to them again. They left the Kohl Center that night as 12-point losers, but the final score didn’t look nearly as lopsided as the game actually played out.
But Tuesday in Ann Arbor…
Marcus Carr and the Minnesota Gophers had a chance tonight in Ann Arbor to change their fate in the NET rankings and the opinion of doubters across the conference and beyond.
Instead, they walked into the Crisler Center and laid another giant egg on the road against the #10 team in the country. Tuesday night fell two points short of their worst loss on the season, but it was as ugly as any to watch unfold.
Michigan players were losing real teeth on the court but Minnesota was the team continually taking haymakers to the face and refusing to punch back. Thanks to 8 points from Marcus Carr just before halftime, the blowout was delayed until the second half.
But when it hit… it hit like a hurricane.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s basketball team plays in the best conference in college basketball (by far). They hold a very respectable 3-3 B1G record to go with their 7-0 non-conference schedule.
That’s even more impressive when you realize that all six of their conference games have come against opponents who were ranked in the top-25, at the time they played.
But no matter how well the Gophers play at home early in the schedule, Richard Pitino has to get his team mentally prepared to play more competitively on the road. Getting destroyed is exhausting and will take a toll on the confidence of this team as the season moves forward.
And “news-flash”: when games matter most (Big Ten + NCAA Tourneys), the Gophers won’t be playing at Williams Arena. So they’d better get their shit figured out on the road and they should do it sooner, rather than later.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan