With the return of Gophers fans, how long will it take for the atmosphere to return?



Fans back to the barn

The fans are back at the Williams Arena. The fans are back at the Williams Arena. Sounds so good, I had to say it twice. For the first time since 2019-20, the Gophers are able to open the season with the home crowd in attendance Tuesday at the barn.

The Gophers women’s basketball team’s first 69-66 loss to Jacksonville was a tough start to the day for fans. The main event, however, will be Ben Johnson ‘s head coach debut tonight with the Gophers men against Missouri Kansas City.

Johnson remembers when the barn could be an electric atmosphere when he was a player and assistant to the Gophers: “I want to get this back.”

The pandemic is still here. Masks are required for everyone inside the building not on the team, but this approximates a normal college hoop environment across the country.

Even without fans last season, the Gophers started 11-0 at the barn, including 7-0 in a non-conference game.

Johnson, who coached the Gophers to an 80-67 victory over Concordia-St. Paul in front of 9,470 fans, will play four of the six away games after tonight. So he’s hoping his team can gain an early advantage on the pitch by playing in front of the fans this year.

“We encourage fans to come to as many games as possible,” Johnson said. “This is important. Our guys are feeding off the energy that this place can provide. It is incomparable.… Whatever way we can do to get this back. We have to do our part by playing good basketball. -ball. “

The Gophers have won 31 straight home opener in the regular season since losing 63-57 to Ball State in overtime in 1988-89. It was in Clem Haskins‘third season, ending with the U reaching the Sweet 16.

The senior management

When the Gophers were at their best in recent years, it was about leadership helping to overcome adversity. Elders Eric curry and Payton Willis were named team captains on Monday, which wasn’t surprising as the only players with Big Ten experience.

Johnson will need Curry and Willis to keep the Gophers upbeat and positive even through the tough times of a rebuilding season. They both had their ups and downs in Minnesota under the leadership of Richard Pitino.

Curry and Willis aren’t alone, however. There are eight seniors on Johnson’s roster, including planned starters EJ Stephens and Luc Loewe, who are with Willis in the backcourt. Elders Sean sutherlin and Charlie daniels will likely be the first players to leave the bench.

“Like I told the team, just because they’re captains doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t a part of the leadership,” Johnson said. “These are the guys who were chosen to carry the weight, but everyone has to play a part.

Front fillings

In last year’s 29-point win over UMKC, transfer Drake Liam Robbins had his first breakout game with the Gophers with 29 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in front of an empty arena.

Robbins, who placed second on the team with 11.7 points last season, led Minnesota in rebounds (6.6) and the Big Ten in blocks (2.7). After a slow start in the Big Ten game, the 7-footer held his own against some of the league’s best big men. But he was transferred to Vanderbilt.

Trying to replace Robbins’ inner presence won’t come from one player. Curry and Stephen F. Austin transfer Charlie daniels will rotate in the center, but the Gophers will need the help of 6-11 freshmen Treyton thompson and second Battle of Jamison.

The Gophers were the Big Ten’s worst team in rebound margin (minus-3.6) last season. It’s not like the years gone by when Jordan Murphy (twice) and Daniel Oturu (2019-2020) led the Big Ten on the rebound and were big men in all leagues. Johnson will have a committee-based post-production approach.

Curry and company will be tested immediately Tuesday night against UMKC Josias Allick. The 6-8 junior was named to the All-Summit League preseason squad after averaging 15 points and six rebounds last season.

Three-point improvement?

The Gophers shot a weak 28.4% from three last season, but were 46th nationally and second in the Big Ten with 25.2 attempts per game. They finished third in team history with 730 three-point attempts. Something’s wrong, isn’t it.

As much as Pitino has talked about not wanting his players to shoot so many three-pointers, they let them fly with a reckless abandonment. Johnson won’t know how good his team are beyond the arc until they prove somehow.

Battle (24 points) and Willis (23 points) combined for seven threes in the 80-67 exhibition victory over Concordia (St. Paul) on November 1. The Gophers shot 11 for 29 (37.9%) of three in the game. against a Division II opponent was not as impressive as four different players hitting at least two from long distance, including Stephens and Loewe.


Time: 7 p.m. CT, Tuesday. Or: Williams Arena. Line: The Gophers’ favorite in seven points. Series: The Gophers lead the series 3-0, including a 90-61 victory on December 10, 2020 at Williams Arena. TV:Nothing. Online / Live Video:BTN-PlusRadio: 100.3 KFAN



Pos.-player Ht. An. PPG

G – Payton Willis 6-4 195 Sr.

G – EJ Stephens 6-3 190 Sr.

G – Luke Loewe 6-4 190 Sr.

F – Jamison Battle 6-7 225 So.

F – Eric Curry 6-9 245 Sr.

Reserves– Sean Sutherlin, G / F, 6-5, Sr; Charlie Daniels, C / F, 6-9, Sr; Abdoulaye Thiam, G, 6-3, Fr; Treyton Thompson, F / C, 6-11, Fr; Danny Ogele, F, 6-7, Sr.

Coach: Ben Johnson 0-0 (1st season)

Notable:The Gophers also played at UMKC to open the 2015-16 season. The result was a 76-58 victory in Pitino’s third season, which started 2-0. But it ended up being the worst year in program history with an 8-22 record… In his last game at the Grange, Curry was honored with Brandon Johnson and Hunt Conroy on Senior Day. Curry was hoping to pursue a graduate assistant coaching role after this season, but he was convinced he would play a sixth season. And now he’s the starting center for the Gophers, who are as lean in the zooper before any Big Ten team… Junior forwards Parker Fox (transfer to Northern State) and Isaiah Ihnen are on the line. gap after knee surgeries during the offseason. Fox, who tore his ACL and MCL in the spring, is set to be picked up in January.


Pos.-player Ht. An. PPG

G – Evan Gilyard 5-10 170 Sr.

G – Marvin Nesbitt Jr. 6-4 180 Sr.

F – Arkel Lamar 6-5 235 Sr.

F – Josiah Allick 6-8 225 Jr.

C – Hidde Roessink 6-10 220 Jr.

Key reserves– Jacob Johnson, G, 6-5, So; Caden Boser, F, 6-8, So; Anderson Kopp, G, 6-5, So; Paxton Payne, G, 6-2, So; Sam Martin, G, 6-0, therefore.

Coach: Billy Donlon 27-27 (3rd season)

Notable: The Roos have Big Ten and even Minnesota ties in their schedule. Donlon, a former Wright State coach, was an assistant at Michigan under John Beilein and at Northwestern under Chris Collins… Anderson kopp transferred from Lamar, but his brother transferred from Northwestern to Indiana. Jacob Johnson, who averaged 5.2 points last season as a red shirt rookie, was an all-conference player at Champlin Park as a senior in 2019… UMKC will be returning to the Twin Cities this season to play in St. Thomas on January 8 as part of the League Game Summit. The Tommies, new to Division I this season, will play the Roos on February 3.

Fuller’s score prediction (Picks’ record last season 20-9):Gopher 75, UMKC 67

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