The Minnesota Golden Gophers have been one of the best stories in the Big Ten and the country. After having a terrible year last season, the Gophers are eyeing the coveted double bye in the Big Ten tournament. Coach Richard Pitino has went from being on the hotseat to now being one of the favorites to win coach of the year in the BigTen, along with Scott Collins at Northwestern.

Putting the season in perspective

The 2015-2016 Minnesota basketball season was one that Gopher fans would like to forget. Finishing in 13th place out of 14 teams, the Gophers finished with a 2-16 record in the conference.

The last time that Minnesota had fewer than three conference victories was all the way back in 1986-87 when they finished with the identical 2-16 record. In the 121 year history of Gopher basketball, Minnesota has had two or fewer wins in conference only seven times.

Fast forward a year and the Gophers recently beat Nebraska and found themselves with a 11-6 record in conference with one final test in Madison against the Wisconsin Badgers. Minnesota has not had 11 wins in the conference since the 1989-90 (they did go 16-2 in 1996-1997, but had the season vacated due to academic violations). They have only reached 11 wins seven times in program history, and if the Gophers could come away with a win against Wisconsin in the season finale, they would have 12 wins for only the third official time.

The future is bright for the Golden Gophers

In the near future Minnesota will attempt to stay in the top four of the conference in order to lock up the double bye in the BigTen Tournament. The Purdue Boilermakers have locked up the regular season championship with a 13-4 record, but behind them are Minnesota, Maryland and Wisconsin are locked at 11-6, and nipping at their heals are Northwestern and Michigan State with a 10-6 record.

The easiest way for Minnesota to ensure that double bye is to simply beat Wisconsin.

Looking forward, the Gophers are set up for long term success. They are only going to lose one rotation player to graduation this year, three point specialist Akeem Springs. Amir Coffey and Eric Curry are both impressive freshman that will continue to improve within Pitino’s system.

Jordan Murphy is proving to be one of the best rebounding big men in the entire Big Ten. Pitino also has Isiah Washington, a four star point guard from New York, joining the team in the 2017-2018 season. If Pitino continues to develop his young players, the Gophers could be competitive in the BigTen year after year.

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