Rick Pitino doesn’t get his job back, but you have to think the family is happy with at least some measure of revenge.
Just 18 months after the Hall of Fame head coach was fired by the University that he led to the 2013 National Title, Pitino’s son, Richard, knocked the Cardinals out of the NCAA tournament in their first trip back to the dance after the end of his tenure.
Gabe Kalscheur scored 24 points and hit five of Minnesota’s 11 threes as the tenth-seeded Golden Gophers knocked Louisville out in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 86-76. Minnesota will advance to face the winner of No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 15 Bradley on Saturday. It’s the first time the program has advanced out of the first round of the NCAA tournament since 1997, when their Final Four run was wiped from the record books.
It was an impressive performance from Minnesota, who had not had a great finish to the regular season. They had spent the entirety of the Big Ten schedule trying to figure out an answer to their point guard situation, eventually settling on allowing do-it-all wing Amir Coffey to take over ball-handling duties, moving Dupree McBrayer off the ball and sending ISaiah Washington to the bench.
And Coffey has done well in the role. He’s a natural playmaker whose versatility has always been one of his biggest strengths, and it allows McBrayer — who can handle the ball but is more of a natural scorer than a facilitator — to play off the ball. Coffey finished with 16 points and a pair of assists in the win.
The Gophers do not have any depth at this point. Pitino is basically rolling with his starting five and a couple of guys to spell them if they need a blow.
But that five is good enough to make some noise.
Kalscheur’s ability as a knockdown shooter is a difference-maker. When he’s hitting the way that he was hitting on Thursday afternoon, that opens up the paint where Jordan Murphy (who had 18 points and six boards) and Daniel Oturu operate.
If the Gophers do end up drawing Michigan State, it will be a team that they have seen before — they lost to Michigan State by 24 points in East Lansing.