Gophers men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson asked his players to introduce themselves to fans on campus Monday, but he had a message specifically for students.
“We want the barn to be packed and the students are a big part of that,” Johnson said during Monday’s conference. second annual meet the team event. I’m just trying to send the message that home field advantage is extremely important.”
Students who showed up at Superblock on Monday received free pizza and received prizes for shooting competitions, including a television and Nintendo Switch.
The Gophers, who open the season Nov. 6 against Bethune-Cookman, have struggled with overall attendance during a 9-22 season in 2022-23, but the student section has generally brought energy and of team support during a tough conference slate.
The Big Ten released the men’s basketball schedule Tuesday — allowing the U to announce its full schedule for the 2023-24 season. Their first two Big Ten games are December 3 at Ohio State and against Nebraska at home on December 6. The bulk of the conference schedule begins Jan. 4 at Michigan.
The U’s non-league game includes just one away game on Nov. 26 against San Francisco at the Golden State Warriors arena.
Ten of 11 non-conference games will be played at Williams Arena this season, including the first of a home-and-home matchup against Missouri on Nov. 16.
The Big Ten-ACC Challenge ended after 24 seasons due to TV rights issues. And Gavitt Games opponents against Big East didn’t include the Gophers this year. Johnson decided to skip the Main Event in Las Vegas to potentially accommodate two high-profile opponents, but those teams ended up withdrawing. This created a different type of advance schedule.
“Planning is hard,” Johnson said. “It’s like recruiting. Nobody tells you the truth. There were a few things that fell through that were Power Five type games other than Missouri. But the good thing when you see our schedule, it It’s a different variety of team with style.” You want your team to develop confidence and momentum. And you also want to play home games. That was my biggest thing. “
Official season practices begin next week, but the Gophers have already been practicing in the fall since the semester started last month. The players enjoyed interacting with the fans and taking a short break.
“It’s nice to know people who support us,” sophomore guard Braeden Carrington said. “We don’t usually have moments like this because we’re constantly working for the season, so it was fun.”
At last year’s student event, Johnson couldn’t tell fans that veteran forwards Parker Fox and Isaiah Ihnen could make an impact, as they were both out for the season with knee injuries for the second year. Fox and Ihnen are now fully cleared to play alongside returning leading scorer Dawson Garcia and company.
“Being able to talk about our season knowing that they’re a part of it, it’s cool,” Johnson said. “Every day it makes them a little stronger and more confident. I know these guys are excited.”
There are obviously some skeptics after the Gophers finished last in the league in Johnson’s first two seasons. Preseason publications Blue Ribbon and Lindy’s Sports have already predicted that Minnesota will finish 14th in the Big Ten again in 2023-24.
Still, the buzz around Monday’s event was that the Gophers could be a surprise team in the Big Ten with more depth and talent than a year ago.
“I’m very excited for the season, especially with the new team we have,” said sophomore forward Joshua Ola-Joseph.