Richard Pitino Could See His Seat Scorch if Golden Gophers Bubble Burst


richard pitino minnesota

Following Minnesota’s disastrous loss to Rutgers on Sunday, one could easily find plenty of voices within the Golden Gophers blogosphere calling for the head of Richard Pitino.

While it’s certainly more than a bit premature for that, should the Gophers’ NCAA bubble burst, it is reasonable to believe that he’ll be in a make-or-break season next year. Under contract through the 2021-22 season with an annual compensation reported to be $1.6 million, it’s not very likely that he would get bought out at the end of the season; no matter the results down the final stretch here.


A program that hasn’t made the sweet 16 since 1997 (and technically that was vacated, so hasn’t made the sweet 16 since 1990) is going to fire someone just two years after he won Big Ten Coach of the Year? Nah, don’t think so.

Still, one can’t argue with results and the only consistent result of the Richard Pitino era has been mediocrity. If you want a definition of mediocrity worthy of Webster’s look no further than Minnesota basketball under Richard Pitino.

Currently in year six (equaling the number of seasons Tubby Smith was on the job), his numbers compare unfavorably against Smith across the board. He has a decidedly lower winning percentage in every category that matters, as Gopher Illustrated pointed out.

He only has one NCAA Tournament appearance, 2017, and that resulted in arguably the most predictable #12 over #5 upset of all time (and #12 over #5s are as predictable as ever these days).

The next season, the Gophers began the year ranked #15 in the polls, moving up as high as #12, before totally flaming out and not reaching the postseason in any form. It’s pretty similar to their opponent tonight, Northwestern, who they manhandled on the road.

Minnesota Gophers 2010 season preview

NU, like Minnesota, had a break through 2016-17, which led to sky high expectations in 2017-18, which crashed and burned. While Minnesota has recovered somewhat this year, as they’re on the NIT/NCAA bubble, NU is a total dumpster fire right now.

Minnesota handed the Wildcats their ninth straight loss, 62-50, in a game that was a lot more lopsided than that box score sounds. The result keeps the Gophers in the NCAA mix for the time being, as at least one self-proclaimed bracket projection expert sees them in, as an #11 seed.

Why he still has the Gophers in the field though (because it’s a very weak bubble) is not encouraging.

While it is a weak bubble right now, remember you have at least a couple “bid stealers” every year during conference tournament week(s), so that bubble will shrink as it gets closer to selection Sunday. 


Minnesota Golden Gophers Postseason Resume

Record: 18-11, 8-10 in conference

Net: 59, SoS: 47, KenPom: 48, BPI: 59, KPI: 47

Record v NET top 50: 4-7

Bad Losses: Boston College, Rutgers

Good Wins: Wisconsin, Washington, Nebraska (don’t be fooled by their poor conference record, the Cornhuskers check out decently well on almost all of the ranking metrics) Iowa


Road to an at large berth: Win two of your final three (#15 Purdue on Tuesday night, at #17 Maryland next Friday, Big Ten Tournament- likely #8 vs #9 game) and you should be good.

Win three and your Gophers are truly Golden. Lose out and it’s back in the NIT again. Win just one and it’s a lot of Selection Sunday sweating. 

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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