Golden Nugz - 01.21.14 - Basketball Recruits, 2014 Big Ten Football and Richard Pitino

J. Anthony Roberts from MassLive.com

I'll lead with this quick article from MassLive.com on incoming Gopher recruit,  Nate Mason.  It is a nice article on the kid with a few quotes.

Due to his quickness and superior ball-handling skills, the 6-foot-1 guard is a handful on the fast break. Though Mason had an off-game with his shot, making just 2 of 12, he was able to penetrate the seams of the defense and get to the free throw line or kick out for open shots.

"I'll probably play the point, but whatever position they need. I think I can go there and compete for a spot (as a freshman)," Mason said.

Since Mason committed, Pitino, the son of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, has gotten Minnesota off to a strong start, leading the Golden Gophers to a 14-5 record. After falling to then-No. 5 Michigan State in overtime on Jan. 11, Pitino got his first signature win at Minnesota with a 10-point win over No. 11 Ohio State on Thursday.

"I watch every game, talk to the coach after every game," Mason said. "I'm very excited. We had to get that W (against Ohio State)."

I anticipate Mason is going to have a similar style to Deandre Mathieu with a little more size and a shooter's mentality.  But the quickness, ball-handling and ability to get his teammates involved will have some similarities.

Seth Davis of SI.com had an interesting article yesterday.  His column began with a look at what Bruce Pearl is up to these days and on the next page he had a little interview with Richard Pitino.  I'll parse out a few questions with my thoughts...

SI.com: You had the biggest win of your coaching career Thursday night over Ohio State. What was that like?

Pitino: Ever since I took this job, people kept saying to me, "We haven't seen the real Williams Arenas in a while." That was the first time where the building was really alive. For our guys to get a win like that after we were picked 10th in the league was important, because that was an opportunity to prove we belonged.

This part I'll take umbrage with.  Last year the Barn was rocking, several times, but most notably when they beat #1 Indiana.  I've heard this several times over the last couple years and we heard it when Tubby first took over.  This isn't really a knock on Pitino, I'm sure people have told him this, but the attitude that this program has been dead over the last few years is more than a bit of selective memory.  I'm not backing Tubby here as the one we never should have let go; I like the new staff and where the program is hopefully headed.  But this was a ranked team last year that played in some exciting games and even earned some nice wins.  The "real" Barn has been around in recent years.

SI.com: OK, since you're used to being compared to your father, tell me how you're most like him as a coach, and how are you most different?

Pitino: I hate comparing myself to a Hall-of-Famer, but he's my father so that's going to happen. I try to run my program the way he does it, just through holding everyone accountable, working hard, trying to be as organized as possible, trying to motivate everybody. We're different during games. The way he is able to focus on every single possession with such intensity as if the world is about to end, I could never coach that way.

SI.com: He once told me that you're better at this age than he was, because you're humble, whereas he didn't become humble until he was 50. Do you agree?

Pitino: Remember, while I was growing up he won a national championship at Kentucky, then he went to the national championship game the next year, then he signs this contract to be president of the Celtics. Everyone said he would set the NBA on fire and that didn't happen. So I kind of realized that you can be on top one day and on the bottom the next.

For better or worse, he is going to be compared to his father for a very long time.  A couple of interesting  insights here in how he views them as different during games and then the perspective that his dad was not the god of basketball.  For such a young coach, he really does seem to have a good perspective on his profession and the game.  I don't think I'm reading too much into this, but Richard's opportunity to learn a few career lessons from his father's is valuable.

SI.com: You have one 2-year-old daughter and a son on the way. How has becoming a dad changed your life?

Pitino: There's something to be said in this type of business, where you get wrapped up in your own little world about winning and losing and recruiting, and you come home and your daughter doesn't care. She's just excited to see you and hang out with you. It's the greatest release you could ever have.

I like to see when people in a position like this also have something that grounds them a little.  Winning and losing matters to fans and it matters exponentially more to those involved in the program, but perspective is often needed (for fans and for coaches).

Moving on to football.

Athlon published their 2014 Big Ten predictions.  They have Minnesota finishing 4th in the West Division and had this to say about the Gophers.

Minnesota takes the No. 4 spot in our early West Division, but Northwestern should bounce back in 2014. The Golden Gophers dropped their first two Big Ten games last year but rallied to win four in a row, including a 24-10 win over Penn State and a 34-23 victory over Nebraska. Minnesota finished 2013 by losing its last three games, but there's clear progress under coach Jerry Kill. The Golden Gophers have a tough road slate ahead in 2014, with trips to Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan and TCU on the schedule. Mitch Leidner heads into spring practice with an edge at quarterback after Philip Nelson decided to transfer. Running back David Cobb headlines an offense that should lean on its ground attack in 2014. The defense ranked fourth in the Big Ten by holding opponents to 22.2 points a game last year. This unit will have a few personnel losses to overcome, including tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, linebacker Aaron Hill and cornerback Brock Vereen.

I think I would predict Nebraska to win the division ahead of Wisconsin.  Then Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern will be battling it out for 3rd.  Unfortunately Iowa has a much more favorable schedule, I guess that makes the head-to-head match-up a must win.

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