2013-14 Preview: Minnesota

Richard Pitino has pedigree, but it's rebuilding time in Minnesota

Updated: October 22, 2013, 9:36 AM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider

Minnesota/MemphisIssac Baldizon/Getty ImagesSenior Austin Hollins will be one of the Gophers' go-to guys this season.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

2012-13: 21-13 (8-10)
In-conference offense: 1.04 points per possession (4th)
In-conference defense: 1.04 points per possession (8th)

When Tubby Smith was hired to take over Minnesota's basketball program in 2007, he'd won more than 70 percent of his games at both Georgia and Kentucky, captured a national title with the Wildcats in 1998 and finished in the top 20 of the AP rankings for nine seasons running. None of which happened during Smith's six seasons with the Golden Gophers, and expectations that they would resulted in the venerable coach being handed his walking papers after a disappointing 2012-13. In his place is a man who, at 31, is exactly half the age of Smith. He has a famous name and not much of a track record. Say hello to Richard Pitino.

Last season's shortfall was the final straw for Smith, who couldn't coax a .500 conference record out of a team with a strong starting core, a rare season of good health and a certain amount of star power in pro prospects Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams. After reaching the AP's top 10 in January, the Gophers proceeded to lose 11 of 16 down the stretch. Miraculously, the Gophers earned their first NCAA berth since 2010 anyway: Minnesota even won a game, knocking off UCLA before bowing out in the round of 32 against Florida, in what fans didn't realize was a glimpse of their future.

That future revolves around Pitino, who besides the obvious influence of his father, also worked under the Gators' Billy Donovan. An advocate of analytics and intense video study, Pitino brings with him the charisma and stylistic traits of his mentors: pressing defense, drive-and-kick floor generals and lots of 3-point shots.


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