On the eve of one of the biggest nonconference home games in years for the Gophers men's basketball team, Jordan Murphy has been busy trying to explain the strange ending to the Gophers' win over then-No. 25 Alabama on Saturday.
Rather than talking about the Gophers' fourth nonconference game at Williams Arena between ranked foes in 25 years, the buzz surrounding this team has been all about the unusual happenings last weekend in New York City when Alabama, down to three players on court because of ejections, fouls and injuries, outscored Minnesota 30-22 over the final 10 minutes, 41 seconds of the Gophers' 89-84 victory.
"I've definitely answered a lot of questions about it over the past couple days," Murphy said. "But I just remind people you've got to watch the first 30 minutes of that game. We were up 15-plus on a top-25 team. We played great basketball."
And still, with No. 10 Miami (5-0) visiting Williams Arena for a nationally-televised tilt between undefeated top-15 teams, coach Richard Pitino admitted he's heard from fans upset at how the No. 12 Gophers (7-0) could possibly be outscored by three guys. Some have joked Miami should start Wednesday's game with three players rather than five.
"To me, any criticism of what we did is really fake outrage, so that doesn't bother me," Pitino said. "If you were there or you actually watched ... you would understand how bizarre it was. The whole thing was odd."
Up next is a Miami team that has made the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.
Wednesday's game is just the second in 14 years the Gophers have played two nonconference top-25 teams and the first in five years."This will be our first big game this season in the barn," sophomore wing Amir Coffey said. "It's a top match-up in the rankings. Two good teams, and I'm excited to compete with them."
The Gophers didn't play a ranked nonconference team in each of the past three seasons.
This season, they have beaten No. 25 Alabama at a neutral site, and won at Providence, a 5-1 team that is receiving votes in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls.
"We're about to play potentially our third top-25 opponent and it's not even December yet," Pitino said. "I think we play a tough schedule. It's crazy to think that after Wednesday we will have played the teams we have played and it's not even December. ... Now Miami in our building is a tremendous opportunity. Then (we play) Rutgers, Nebraska, and at Arkansas. Nobody can complain about our schedule, that's for sure."
The Gophers aren't entirely responsible for this suddenly difficult run of games. While Minnesota did set up games against Providence and Alabama, playing Miami as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was decided by the two conferences.
This article is written by Chad Graff from St. Paul Pioneer Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.