Men’s basketball: Gophers AD Mark Coyle sees “Top 25 team” next year

It looks like the Gophers men’s basketball team will not make the NCAA tournament for a fifth straight season — barring a road win over Northwestern next weekend and run in the Big Ten tournament.

But there’s always next year.

And that is where Gophers Athletics Director Mark Coyle has one eye as well. But first he addressed this year’s squad on the Golden Gopher Podcast this week.

“We’ve seen progress,” Coyle said. “… We are much better. We are much more competitive in games. I really appreciate and respect when you spend time with a team, they actually like each other and they get along. It’s a good vibe. I give (head coach Ben Johnson) a lot of credit, he’s kept that team close together.”

Johnson has made huge strides in Year 3, taking the Gophers from 2-17 in Big Ten play last season to 8-9 going into Saturday’s game against Penn State at Williams Arena.

Johnson also has briefly talked about next season. Everyone in the rotation has eligibility remaining for the 2024-25 season and Johnson has expressed belief that all key players come back to build on what they’ve started.

But Coyle went a step further on that podcast.

“I think, if everybody comes back, we will be a Top 25 team preseason next year,” Coyle said. “I have no issue saying that.”

For the Gophers to be in the best position to make March Madness next year, they must continue to navigate the NCAA transfer portal and address the poor nonconference schedule they had this season. KenPom has the Gophers’ adjusted nonconference schedule at 362 out of 362 in the nation.

“I think next year you will see that schedule more competitive,” Coyle forecast. “At the same time, people are not going to want to play us.”

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