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Wisconsin basketball: Minnesota Golden Gophers 2019-20 preview

Let me be the first to compare Isaiah Ihnen to Giannis Antetokounmpo

Minnesota v Michigan State Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images


Nickname: Golden Gophers

Miami v Minnesota
Someone call a doctor! Or an exorcist!
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Conference: Big Ten

Location: Minneapolis, Minn., the hometown of Drew Hamm


Head coach: Richard Pitino, seventh season at Minnesota (112-92 record at Minnesota)

2018-19 record: 22-14 (9-11 Big Ten)

Last time in NCAA Tournament: 2019, lost in second round

Top three returning scorers:

  • Daniel Oturu, sophomore, center, 10.8 ppg
  • Gabe Kalscheur, sophomore, guard, 10.0 ppg
  • Eric Curry, junior, forward, 4.1 ppg

Key loss: Key Departure: Amir Coffey, turned pro, guard, 16.6 ppg

Melbourne United v LA Clippers
Amir Coffey is now a rookie for the LA Clippers
Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Exciting newcomers: While Minnesota loses three of its top five scorers, it adds senior forward Alihan Demir, a graduate transfer from Drexel. Last season, Demir averaged 14.8 points per game and shot 51.2% from the field.

Minnesota also signed four exciting first-year players. The cream of the crop in Isaiah Ihnen, a 6-foot-9-inch four-star recruit from Germany. He uses a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan to play much taller than his height, and he will likely try to do his best Giannis Antetokounmpo impression in the upcoming seasons. If he does, it will probably be more like the 6.8 ppg Antetokounmpo of 2013-14.

Date of game 1: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 8 p.m. (BTN)
Location: Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date of game 2: Sunday, March 1, 5:30 p.m. (BTN)
Location: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin

Preview: The Gophers are on a full rebuild after losing Amir Coffey to the draft. There are a lot of new faces, some unproven. Demir is the key piece to the puzzle for Minnesota. If he continues to improve and thrives in B1G play, the Gophers could have a nice little season.

From B1G media day, B5Q contributor Matt Belz wrote:

Minnesota Head Coach Richard Pitino spent his opening remarks discussing the excitement of entering his seventh year. Minnesota lost a lot of players, but Pitino doesn’t believe that means that they need to take a step back. He likes the incoming transfers especially the way in which they have helped the young team learn how to prepare and play.

Prediction: It seems like the lower-ranked B1G teams are volatile with young talent. One of these teams will bite Bucky, and it’s hard to tell which ones. It seems like the Gophers have a lot of moving parts that need to synthesize for this season to be a success.

I will give the Badgers the season sweep, but I won’t be surprised one bit if the Gophers sweep Bucky.