(Minnesota Vikings)

Report: Minnesota makes a hard push to host a future Final Four


Minnesota’s new football facility has already landed them a Super Bowl in 2018 and now the city will reportedly bid on the Final Four from 2017-2020, according to a report from Doug Belden of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

On Tuesday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton will be joined by local business leaders and sports figures for a 2 p.m. CST news conference on the push by the state.

The new $1 billion football stadium for the Vikings opens in Minneapolis in 2016 and the city has already defeated New Orleans and Indianapolis for a Super Bowl.

Minnesota will be one of eight finalists for the 2018 bid that will be announced in November.

The Final Four has been to the Twin Cities twice, in 1992 and 2001 and Minnesota also hosted a Super Bowl in 1992.

Duke is probably rooting for a Final Four return to Minneapolis. The Blue Devils and Coach K won the title there in both 1992 and 2001.

Report: Minnesota forward Joey King eligible to play immediately

Minnesota Athletics
Leave a comment

With the NCAA denying Rakeem Buckles’ request for an immediate eligibility waiver (Buckles thus returned to FIU), Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino found himself in need of some additional size entering his first season at the Big Ten school. On Thursday the Golden Gophers received some good news from the NCAA, as Drake transfer Joey King had his request for an immediate eligibility waiver granted.

The news was first reported by Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com.

In his lone season at Drake, King posted averages of 6.9 points and 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 19 minutes of action per game. King’s best performance came in a 77-65 loss to Missouri State in which he accounted for 21 points and seven rebounds. For the season the 6-foot-9 Eagan, Minn. native reached double digits in scoring ten times and reached double digits in rebounds twice (career-high 11 boards in a win over Illinois State on January 12). For his efforts King was named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Freshman Team.

King being cleared gives Minnesota a total of five interior players entering the 2013-14 season, so it likely goes without saying that he’ll be a part of the rotation. In addition to King the Gophers have three juniors, center Elliot Eliason and forwards Maurice Walker and Oto Osenieks, and redshirt freshman Charles Buggs.

Last season the Golden Gophers were the nation’s best in regards to offensive rebounding, as they finished the year with an offensive rebounding percentage of 43.8%. Given their lack of depth inside, Minnesota’s backcourt will be asked to lead the way in 2013-14. Veterans Andre and Austin Hollins (not related) and Maverick Ahanmisi and newcomers Dre Mathieu (junior college transfer), Malik Smith (FIU transfer) will be among the players at Pitino’s disposal on the perimeter.

Rick Pitino sounds off on NCAA denying Rakeem Buckles a waiver

Rakeem Buckles

This summer has provided a number of interesting rules by the NCAA, and Louisville head coach voiced his opinion on Friday in the wake of one of the NCAA’s most recent head-scratching rulings.

Rakeem Buckles started his career at Louisville, but decided to follow Richard Pitino to the FIU, sat out the season, and then chose to go with Pitino to Minnesota. On Wednesday, Buckles, who has one year of eligibility remaining, had his waiver to play immediately was denied by the NCAA. This ruling is puzzling for two reasons: FIU is ineligible for postseason play due to APR issues from Isiah Thomas’ tenure as head coach. Also, this comes five weeks after FIU transfer Malik Smith was granted a waive to play right away at Minnesota.

When talking to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Rick Pitino expressed his disbelief in the NCAA’s decision.

“I’m just blown away by it,” Pitino told Goodman. “It makes no sense. It’s amazing the NCAA can do this. He’s a model student-athlete who had a 3.2 GPA when he left Louisville. He just wants a chance to play in another NCAA tournament.

“[Buckles] had no idea that the program wouldn’t be able to play in the NCAA tournament when he transferred to FIU. This is a good kid who has dealt with plenty of adversity over his career. It’s completely unfair.”

The 6-foot-7 Buckles has torn both his ACLs — right in February 2011, left in January 2012 — during his time in a Cardinal uniform. He would have seen considerable action on the Golden Gophers frontline.

The NCAA’s decision has since been appealed.

Former Drake forward Joey King returning home to Minnesota

Leave a comment

Rick Pitino Jr. received some good news recently learning that Joey King will return home to play for Minnesota. King, a native of Eagan, MN, averaged 6.9 points as a freshman at Drake earning All-Freshmen honors in the Missouri Valley.

In early May, King announced his decision to leave the Drake program. Ryan James–a writer for GopherIllustrated.com–explained King’s reasoning for transferring back on May 10th:

Per Evan Daniels, who broke the news on Sunday afternoon, King will likely receive a waiver to play immediately:

On the court, King has the ability to stretch a defense standing at 6-foot-9, but spending a fair amount of time beyond the arc. King shot 34.7% from the perimeter last season (33-95), and actually took more three-pointers than twos.

While it’s always nice to have a big forward who can step out and hit a three, it would behoove King to continue to develop his inside game as the Golden Gophers will have to replace two big bodies on the inside: Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Report: FIU coach Richard Pitino close to finalizing deal with Minnesota

Richard Pitino

To follow along with the 2013 Coaching Carousel, click here.

While his dad is headed to the Final Four in Atlanta with Louisville, a report says that FIU head coach Richard Pitino could steal at least a share of the family spotlight this week.

According to Andy Katz of ESPN.com, Minnesota is finalizing a deal to make Pitino its head coach and fill the vacancy that was created with the firing of Tubby Smith on March 25.

Pitino coached FIU to an 18-14 overall record this past season, including 11-9 in Sun Belt play. He came within one game securing an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, but his team lost to Western Kentucky in the conference tournament championship game.

If the move happens, it would be a bold one for the Gophers. But Pitino, 30, has experience as a high-major assistant at Louisville with his father and at Florida under head coach Billy Donovan. Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague was at Virginia Commonwealth when he gave another one-time assistant, Shaka Smart, his first major head coaching break.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

No. 11 Minnesota dominates No. 6 UCLA to advance to Round of 32

Leave a comment

Minnesota dominated UCLA on the interior in the first half Friday night, led by senior Trevor Mbakwe. Once that ran its course, its guards took over to finish the job in an impressive 83-63 win in the Round of 64 in Austin, Texas.

Mbakwe finished with nine points and 12 rebounds, while the backcourt trio of Andre Hollins (28 points), Austin Hollins (16 points), and Joe Coleman (14 points) put the finishing touches on a UCLA team that looked unenthused and lethargic in the second half.

The theme of matchups continues to run throughout this NCAA tournament and already without Jordan Adams because of injury, the Bruins could already do little to stop what Minnesota did offensively with both Hollins guards and Coleman. Add that to the fact that Mbakwe and Elliott Eliason were getting UCLA’s bigs in foul trouble early and the Gophers were hitting the Bruins on both fronts.

The game was billed as the “Loser Loses His Job,” referring to the hot seat beneath both Minnesota coach Tubby Smith and UCLA coach Ben Howland, but we’ll have to see how off-season decisions pan out to see if that proves true. Early Twitter reports say Howland would not comment after the game on whether or not he had just coached his final game with the Bruins.

Minnesota now moves on to play Florida in the Round of 32 for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. Mbakwe will meet his match in the paint against another physical player in Florida’s Patric Young, while the Gopher backcourt will have their hands full with Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton. Minnesota, most importantly, will have to make shots. The more it succumbs to Florida’s defense and allows the Gators to bait them into bad shots and misses, the more it sparks the Florida transition game that can quickly put the Gophers in a hole.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_