The border battle between Wisconsin and Minnesota is one that has stood the test of time in the Big Ten. Badger fans detest Gopher fans and vice versa, the proof of this seems to be around every corner. This angst towards one another seems to be exacerbated by the fact that Wisconsin has been so wildly successful over the last decade while Minnesota has not been as dominant. Since 2007-’08, the Badgers have yet to miss the NCAA Tournament. Compare that to the Gophers, who have missed the NCAA Tournament six times in the last 10 years. Barring some wild outcome in the Big Ten Tournament, neither of these teams will make it to March this season however.
Not only has Wisconsin been the better team in the grand scheme of success, but they have dominated their bouts with the Gophers. Richard Pitino took control of Minnesota in 2013-’14 and has only defeated the Badgers once in his tenure. Another loss was added to the tally when the Gophers lost 73-63 in overtime at the Kohl Center on Monday night. Though the Gophers have been successful, and far more consistent under Pitino as a whole, they have yet to get over the Badger hump.
Richard Pitino’s first game against Wisconsin was the only success in his now five year tenure. The game took place at Williams Arena and Wisconsin was ranked ninth in the country with a 16-3 record. Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes led the way for the Badgers with 20 and 12 points respectively. However, they could not combat the Gophers shooting a scorching 59 percent from the field in their home gym. Austin Hollins, Maurice Walker, and Deandre Mathieu combined to score 47 points. In the end, the Gophers notched the upset, winning the game 81-68.
Since starting 1-0 against Wisconsin, Richard Pitino and the Gophers have yet to defeat the Badgers. They lost to Wisconsin later in that 2013-’14 campaign when the Badgers were ranked 21st in the country and again in the Big Ten Tournament. Within a matter of weeks in the 2014-’15 season, Minnesota dropped two games to Wisconsin too. The following three seasons saw the Gophers drop four more games to the Badgers. That brings Richard Pitino’s overall record against Wisconsin, including the Big Ten Tournament, to 1-8.
Those eight straight losses have not be overly contentious either. Minnesota has been outscored by 99 total points in this skid against Wisconsin. Say what you will about their lone win back in 2014, but there is no team that Richard Pitino has struggled against more. Some of this may have to do with the overall talent level of each team. The Badgers have had great players in this stretch like Dekker, Hayes, Bronson Koenig, and Frank Kaminsky. That could explain the vast differential, however there has to be more to it.
Think about it, Minnesota had the talents of Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Jordan Murphy, Reggie Lynch, Dupree McBrayer, Eric Curry, and Akeem Springs last year. Their final game of the regular season in 2016-’17 saw them lose to the Badgers by 17 points. So there was no real talent disparity last season. Both teams are almost equal in terms of talent this season with Ethan Happ and Jordan Murphy. Yet, the Gophers lost by double figures on Monday evening.
Whether or not Richard Pitino has a Wisconsin hex, I do not know. However, the Gophers continually fail to show up against their biggest rivals in not only the conference, but in the nation. Until they snap their dry spell, Minnesota fans will only become more ornery with Richard Pitino. With the way this season has gone, he may even be in some hot water with the Gopher faithful already.