MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Gopher men’s basketball team will be in Michigan on Saturday afternoon, still looking for its first Big Ten win.
As NCAA goals begin to look bleak, Richard Pitino is trying to keep hope alive in his players.
The Gophers are 0-3 in Big Ten play and no Gophers team has ever made the NCAA Tournament after an 0-3 start.
So pack it in, season’s already over, right? That’s not how Pitino sees it, obviously.
“I think it’s important to see this thing through with 15 more games to go,” Pitino said. “So I think it’s kind of silly to panic after three games. I wasn’t ready to cut down the nets when we were 2-1 last year. So we’ve got a long way to go.
“Coaches don’t normally hit the panic button. It’s not normal. We don’t have those buttons around us.”
What Pitino did instead was to gather his team around him on Thursday and tell them this: You’re not out of it yet. In fact, of the six Big Ten teams to make the tournament last year, four (Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska) endured three-game losing streaks — or longer — in conference play. Nebraska even started the Big Ten 0-4 and still made the tournament.
“You’ve got to give them confidence,” Pitino said. “Because they’re not feeling great about themselves right now.”
Gophers forward Joey King was part of the Gophers team last year that played those Big Ten teams who turned things around.
“It’s a tough league,” King said. “And teams will lose two or three in a row all the time. It’s how you bounce back.”
Which is why Pitino isn’t panicking.
In fact, he’s encouraged by what he says has been progress.
“I sit here and we’re 0-3 and obviously it’s a big deal,” Pitino said. “We are significantly better than we were last year. Now, we’re 0-3. I think we started 2-1. But we are playing better basketball. Just got to find a way to win some games.”