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Point guard the biggest concern for Gophers men's basketball

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino during the 2018 Big Ten basketball media day at Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, Ill., on Oct. 11, 2018. Quinn Harris / USA TODAY Sports

ROSEMONT, Ill. — There's one big question hanging over the Gophers men's basketball team heading into the 2018-19 season: Who will play point guard?

Hall of fame coach Rick Pitino, father of Gophers coach Richard Pitino, said on a podcast last week that, now that all-Big Ten guard Nate Mason is gone, that is the one uncertain piece of Minnesota's roster.

"I like his team this year," Rick Pitino said on "The Sidelines with Evan Daniels" podcast on Oct. 3. "I'm not crazy about the point guard position. ...Now, if Isaiah Washington can mature out of the social media world and into the real basketball world of how to get it done, then they've got great promise. If not, he's just got to find a different point guard and move in another direction. That's his only weak spot right now is at the point guard position, and I hope the fifth-year senior (Brock Stull) gets into shape."

Richard Pitino shared his views on Washington and Stull during Big Ten media day Thursday, Oct. 11, at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont.

Washington, who has amassed a large following on social media with his playground moves in high school in New York, averaged 8.7 points and a 1.5 assist-to-turnover margin in 32 games last year as a freshman. He shot 36.6 recent from the field and 24 percent from 3-point range.

"He's grown a lot on the court," Pitino said. "With all freshmen, it's habits. For him, as difficult as all the injuries were (last season), it thrust him into meaningful minutes. Now it's just a matter of terminology, understanding offensively, defensively, never taking a play off, just understanding the difference between high school and college, AAU and college."

At Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Stull averaged 10.1 points with a 1.38 assist-to-turnover margin across 96 games. He shot 41.4 from the field and 37.8 on 3-pointers.

"I expect Brock to be ready to go," Pitino said of Stull, who got a late start with his new team after finishing academic work in Milwaukee into September. "He's a smart player and he's produced at a high level."

Sarcastic start

Pitino's opening statement wasn't brimming with the positive vibe so typical from most coaches at Big Ten media day.

"Excited to be here," he said, straight-faced. "Big Ten Media Day is always the highlight of my year, so I'm fired up.

"Anyone picking up on that?" Pitino said, showing his sarcastic personality before flashing a smile. "Any questions?"

Some onlookers chuckled in hotel ballroom.

20-game schedule

The Big Ten has increased its conference schedule from 18 games to 20 this season, and Pitino is in favor of it.

"I think it's good for everybody," Pitino said. "I think (Big Ten) commissioner (Jim) Delany has brought it up a couple times: We've got to figure out from a college basketball standpoint how to capture our fans in November and December."

The Gophers open Big Ten play against Ohio State in Columbus on Dec. 2, then host Nebraska at Williams Arena on Dec. 5.

Murphy mentioned

Murphy was named Thursday to the preseason all-Big Ten team compiled by a panel of the conference's media members. Ten players were honored, with Purdue guard Carsen Edwards picked as the Big Ten's preseason player of the year.

The other players are Indiana guard Romeo Langford, Indiana forward Juwan Morgan, Maryland guard Anthony Cowan Jr., Michigan guard Charles Matthews, Michigan State forward Cassius Winston, Nebraska forward James Palmer Jr., and Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ.

Briefly

The Big Ten Tournament will return this postseason to United Center in Chicago for the first time since 2015, running from March 13-17. The tournament was at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. the past two years and at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in 2016.

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