Jarrod Peterson: Gophers basketball is back, hopefully to stay

Published 9:00 am Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Triangle by Jarrod Peterson

There is no question about it: the Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s basketball team is the story in Division I basketball this season.

With Wednesday’s win at Maryland, Minnesota all but punched its ticket to the Big Dance.

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Aside from their five-game Big Ten losing streak through two weeks in January (four of those losses came by a combined 17 points), the Gophers have rebounded nicely.

Beating the Terrapins made it six wins in a row and Minnesota has moved into the top four of the Big Ten Conference, which if it started today, would mean the Gophers would get a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament.

That’s a long way forward from where this program was one calendar year ago when the public was calling for head coach Richard Pitino’s head.

I’m not saying Pitino is the second coming of his father, Rick, but he has this group playing team basketball and for one another.

However, the biggest benefit that may come from this season’s success is recruiting.

The Gophers have Isaiah Washington, a four-star point guard from New York, coming in next season. Four-star big man Daniel Oturu (Cretin Derham Hall) will headline the Class of 2018. But there are other big fish in the state of Minnesota who haven’t declared any allegiance to a school.

Among them, Apple Valley’s Tre Jones, the younger brother of Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones, is another point guard who is getting looks from big time schools like Duke and North Carolina. Race Thompson is a 6’8” big man from Armstrong High School and Esko’s Adam Trapp is 7’2” and has some skills.

The biggest prize might come in 2019 when Rochester John Marshall’s Matthew Hurt — whose brother, Michael, is a freshman on the Gophers — reveals his commitment. Hurt is a five-star prospect and rated No. 6 at his position in the country.

That’s just the state of Minnesota. Other players might develop in the next few years.

This Gophers team is one of the youngest in the country with Akeem Springs being the only senior on the team and the only juniors being Nate Mason and Reggie Lynch.

Sophomores Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy and freshman Amir Coffey are three players the Big Ten will have to contend with, hopefully, for the next few seasons.

The Gophers aren’t on the rise.

They are here.