Pitino Blog: Week 2

Good morning Gopher fans,

Barely two weeks have passed since our players came back to campus for the school year.  We have had a total of six individual instruction workouts with our guys. Along with working our players out on campus, our staff has hit the road recruiting.

Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!
Freshman Bakary Konate is one of Coach Pitino's early standouts.

  • I have been impressed with several players.  As for the newcomers, Bakary Konate has stood out the most.  This year will be perfect for him to learn under Elliott and Mo.  He is a legit 6-11, plays with a high motor, and is very skilled.  He also is a phenomenal kid and a quick learner.  We are very excited!  Andre and Deandre continue to progress on the court as well as in the weight room.  They should prove to be a very strong backcourt. 

  • Next week we will start team practice for a total of two hours a week.  We will bring them along slowly starting with the basic fundamentals on defense.  The look of this year's team will be different.  We will certainly miss our veterans and they will be tough to replace.  All of our newcomers are eager to learn and will have to impact this team immediately.  It will be fun to see who separates themselves.

  • September 9th marked the beginning of the recruiting period.  The first three days I was in Minnesota, Kansas, and several different locations in Florida.  Last year's NIT championship and 25 wins has certainly helped in recruiting.  We hope to deliver a very strong recruiting class that tailors to our system.  We will try to get quicker and more athletic.  We constantly talk about our tremendous fan base and our second-to-none basketball conference.  Expectations will be higher this season.  They should be!  We will embrace the challenge.

  • Hoops season is just around the corner and we need to be ready.  Not too many programs open up their season vs. a top-five team on national TV.  Gopher fans, I must warn you.  Ignore anything and everything that comes out of my father's mouth leading up to this game. He does it on the golf course all the time and will start playing mind games with all of us soon enough!  Pay no attention to him.  He will say they are young and inexperienced.  They are talented, athletic and obviously well-coached.  He will tell everyone we are the overwhelming favorite.  Prepare yourselves.  He tried to coach my team last year during the NIT championship.  I am looking forward to watching him try to coach both teams at once on November 14th!  Haha.

  • Thanks to Land O' Lakes for their generous donation.  Our basketball program is extremely grateful. 

  • The immediate upgrades to Bierman and to our Williams Arena locker room are first-class.  The barber shop was also a nice touch.  I have said it before and I'll say it again, we have one of the best athletic directors in the country.  Norwood Teague will continue to move this athletic department forward. 

Good luck to the football team on Saturday.  Should be a fun one!

Go Gophers!

Richard Pitino

Pitino Blog: Early Summer Update

Good morning Gopher Fans,

Hope everyone is having a great summer like we are.  Personally it has been a lot of fun welcoming my two-month-old Jack into this world. Jill, Ava, Bernie and I are extremely fortunate and lucky.

This summer has been much different than last year.  The culture has been introduced and expectations for how to operate on a daily basis have been laid out. That is always the toughest part of taking over a new job. These next few months are all about taking the next step as a team and a program.  We have had a few weeks of individual instruction so far as well as workouts in the weight room.  

Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!
Head coach Richard Pitino gives his thoughts on the state of the Gophers.

This summer I have chosen to stay away and watch from afar.  This gives my assistant coaches an opportunity to grow as coaches because when the season starts, I am the main voice everyone hears.  It also gives our players an opportunity to get some much needed space from the pressures of being coached by the head coach.  It's a long season for everyone.  My hope is that when we start back up in the fall, our guys will be fresh and eager to get back to work.

First Impressions.....

Carlos Morris- Has put on significant weight since he has gotten here and still has a ways to go in the weight room.  I have full faith that he, with our strength coach Shaun Brown, will be ready to compete at the Big Ten level.  He will need to come in and make an immediate impact. "Squirrel" is a very good ball handler and passer; he can get to the basket and make others better on the court.  There's no reason why he can't make a difference from day one.

Nate Mason- Pleasant surprise!  Think Andre Hollins, Gopher fans - very similar games.  Nate has a great disposition on the court.  He seems unfazed at all times.  He does a little bit of everything well and can
play multiple positions.  I am very excited about his potential.

Josh Martin- I watched him work out yesterday for the first time of the summer because we have been resting him due to a minor knee issue (I repeat, MINOR).  One word when describing his athletic ability... WOW.  Josh has an infectious personality on the court and is always encouraging his teammates.  He has a chance to be a very, very good player.  Fan favorite!

Zach Lofton- The sky is the limit for Zach.  He has all the tools and talent to be a big-time guard.  Phenomenal athlete, great length and has the ability to get his shot off at any time.  We need him to be ready next year.

Gaston Diedhiou and Bakary Konate-  Both guys are working hard physically as well as academically to finish up strong.  We expect both to be on campus and ready to go come the fall.  Very excited to coach both student-athletes.  Phenomenal kids!

Returners- Who has made the biggest jump over the summer?  This award goes to Daquein McNeil.  That small forward spot will be a fun competition.  I really like the direction Day Day is headed.

My staff and I hit the road on Wednesday to go find the next great Gopher. Recruiting has been going very well.  Year one was good, I hope year two can be GREAT.

Hope everyone has a great 4th of July!  Go Gophers!  

Richard Pitino

 

Gophers Hold Media Day at the Barn

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Photo Gallery | Gopher Basketball Ticket Information | Media Day Live Replay (Video)

The University of Minnesota basketball team held its preseason media day on Monday afternoon at Williams Arena. The Gophers took their team picture before opening up the court to local media members. Mike Grimm and Corbu Stathes of the Gopher Radio Network held an interactive interview session which allowed fans to send in questions.

Head coach Richard Pitino, entering his first season at Minnesota, said that he has been impressed by the fan support for the program. He also discussed the team's fast-paced playing style and the improvements he has seen since his arrival. 

Pitino said that the Gophers are anxious to play against opponents other than themselves. They will have their first chance to do so this Friday, when they will take on Cardinal Stritch in an exhibition game at 7 p.m.

Pitino, Team Captains Meet the Media

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Head coach Richard Pitino and the Golden Gopher basketball team's three captains met with the media on Tuesday afternoon. Seniors Austin Hollins and Maverick Ahanmisi and junior Andre Hollins have been elected captains by their teammates.

Pitino, who has now been Minnesota's head coach for almost six months, said he would consider a starting lineup that includes all three captains. He said that the team is "right on schedule" in terms of strength and conditioning at this point in the year. Since Pitino's arrival, the Gophers have been working on learning a new style of play. Full team practices started last week.

"At the start of practice, everyone's excited," Andre Hollins said. "You can tell around the locker room -- managers, players, coaches -- everyone's excited for the season."

Team tri-captain (MN Daily) Ahanmisi's role expanding (Star Tribune
Gophers adapting to up-tempo style (Pioneer Press)
Minnesota embraces underdog status (FSN)

Summer Snippets: Notes from the Gopher Hoops Offseason

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For the first time since Richard Pitino's introduction as head coach in April, the Golden Gopher basketball team held an offseason media session. Pitino talked about what he has seen from his team so far, and what he hopes to achieve over the rest of the summer. Golden Gopher players were also available, speaking with the local media for the first time. Notes and quotes from today's interview session follow below.

Head Coach Richard Pitino

On his philosophy for summer practice:

"This is the summer. If I come in here going nuts in July, in June, they're going to hate me come December. So I try to take it somewhat easy on them but also kind of instill the culture. We're allowed two hours (per week), and when the season starts we practice much, much more than that. So for me, I'm just trying not to make them feel like this is the season."

Go Gophers! Richard Pitino Go Gophers! Pitino and the Gophers met the media on Tuesday. Go Gophers!

Pitino and the Gophers met the media on Tuesday.

"A lot of our practices have been going up and down as much as possible, not blowing the whistle that much, getting them to play through mistakes."

"This time of year, it's probably good when they screw up, because you can show them on film."

*Pitino said the Gophers have played a lot of five-on-five to get used to the pace he would like them to play. Building chemistry, instilling team culture and preparing for the pace are the main offseason focuses.

On some of his personnel:

"I think Austin (Hollins is) a really good player. We're going to rely on him a lot, just because he's done it. He'll be fine in any system that he plays in. Andre (Hollins is) another guy we'll rely on a lot."

"What you see right now is not what you're to get with Charles Buggs. Hopefully he'll continue to grow, continue to improve. When he puts on weight and when he figures out how to play for me, he'll be a very good player down the road. It's going to take time, though."

*Pitino said that the starting point guard spot is open for competition, but he would be "shocked" if Andre Hollins doesn't start as either point guard or shooting guard.

*The Gophers are still waiting to find out if transfers Malik Smith and Joey King will be cleared to play in the upcoming season. Smith played for Pitino at Florida International last year, while King transferred from Drake for family reasons. Pitino said that Smith has played the best in practice so far because he is used to his system.

Meet the New Guys

Malik Smith (Senior/Guard)

On Pitino:

"I love the way Coach Pitino plays. A lot of shots. I love to shoot. ...He's a demanding coach. He's going to get the most out of us. He's a good guy."

On his new teammates:

"There's no bad teammate. Everybody's good people."

*Smith started 31 of 32 games for FIU last season. He averaged 14.1 points per game and made 96 three-pointers on the year.

Joey King (Sophomore/Forward)

On coming back to his home state (King attended Eastview High School):

"It's definitely a great opportunity. I'm enjoying my time at Minnesota, being close to home. It's really special playing for the hometown team. It was sad to leave Drake, but I couldn't be happier here. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity of playing in the Big Ten."

On his game:

"I want to bring an aspect of toughness. I'm a pick-and-pop 4-man, so I can shoot the ball from outside."

*King was selected to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman Team last season at Drake.

Daquein McNeil (Freshman/Guard)

On his new teammates:

"I love them. They're all embracing me, welcoming me. I'm the only freshman, so they're always trying to make fun of me, but they're pretty good guys."

On what he is most looking forward to about the season:

"Getting to the games. ...Right now we're playing against each other, but it will feel good for all of us to be on the same team."

*McNeil, a combo guard, averaged 19.0 points per game as a senior at Vermont Academy

Blog: Richard Pitino Welcomed to Gopher Family

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WATCH: Replay of Coach Pitino Press Conference | Photo Gallery

Gopher basketball players, media, staff and fans got their first look at new head coach Richard Pitino this morning. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, Director of Athletics Norwood Teague and Pitino gave opening remarks before Pitino and Teague fielded questions from the media.
Go Gophers! Richard Pitino
Go Gophers!
Richard Pitino
Go Gophers!

Teague said that Pitino has all the key characteristics that he looked for during the coaching search. These qualities included "relentless" recruiting, ability to develop student-athletes on and off the court and ability to "manage and build this program to the highest level."

"I'm extremely excited about this opportunity," Pitino said. "Minnesota basketball has got one of the best traditions in all of college basketball."

Members of the Gopher basketball team, who sat in the first few rows during the press conference, met their new mentor earlier in the morning. Both coach and players are eager to get to know each other better.

"He really gave us a positive vibe," Austin Hollins said. "He's coming in, and he has a solid plan that he really wants to enforce. He knows what he wants to do. I think all the guys are going to be on board with that."

Before the media even started asking questions, Pitino already talked about the style of play he would like to implement with his new team.

"He really wants that hard-nosed defense up the court," Hollins said. "Then on offense, we're just going to run them down--a lot of pick-and-rolls, getting up and down, getting a lot of shots up."

After about half an hour of answering questions, Pitino did one-on-one interviews with local TV stations, along with Mike Grimm and Spencer Tollackson. Watch Grimm's exclusive interview above and by clicking here.

Social Media Story: Gophers to Hire Richard Pitino

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The social media world was buzzing yesterday with the University of Minnesota's impending hire of Richard Pitino as the Gophers' new head men's basketball coach. We've collected some of the notable Tweets and Facebook posts from yesterday's eventful day:

Blog: Previewing the Gators

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Go Gophers! Gophers vs. Florida
Go Gophers!

On Sunday, March 24, in Austin, Texas, the Gophers will continue their quest to make a deep NCAA Tournament run a Third Round matchup against No. 3 seed Florida in the South Regional. GopherSports.com's Jeff Fett took a peek at what the Gators have accomplished so far this season, and how the Gophers will match up with them.

Florida Preview

Head Coach:
Billy Donovan

Overall Record:
27-7

SEC Conference Record:
14-4

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Erik Murphy-12.8 ppg; Kenny Boynton-12.3 ppg; Mike Rosario-12.2 ppg; Patric Young-10.5 ppg; Scottie Wilbekin-9.1 ppg.

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Patric Young-6.3 rpg; Will Yeguete-5.9 rpg; Erik Murphy-5.5 rpg; Casey Prather-3.8 rpg; Michael Frazier II-3.3 rpg. 

Notable wins: Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State, Marquette, Florida State, Air Force Academy, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama

Notable losses: Arizona, Kansas State, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi 

Outlook

Florida is a team that is a serious contender for the Final Four if they are hitting on all cylinders. 

Senior forward Erik Murphy and senior point guard Kenny Boynton lead the Gators. The two led the team in scoring and on the defensive side of the ball. Sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin's defense has also been important to Florida's success.

The Gators average 71.9 points per game and allow just 53.5 points per game, which is third in the nation. In fact, Florida's defense has been so stout that it has allowed more than 70 points just once (80 points in a loss to Arkansas) and allowed 50 points or fewer 13 times this season.

In their Second Round game, the Gators held the highest scoring team in the nation in Northwestern State to 34 points below its season average.

However, Florida is not without its weaknesses. The Gators are 0-6 in games decided by six points or fewer this season. They have also let three double-digit leads slip away.

If the Gophers can get up and down the court and take the Gators out of their element and turn this into a high scoring game, there is a good chance they could make it into the Sweet 16.

Game Preview: Gophers vs. UCLA

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Go Gophers! MNB1G
Go Gophers!

COMPLETE GAME NOTES/PREVIEW | NCAA TOURNAMENT CENTRAL

By Jeff Fett, GopherSports.com

Friday, March 22, in Austin, Texas the Gophers will begin their quest to make it to their second Final Four in school history in a second round matchup against No. 6 seed UCLA in the South Regional. Here is a preview of what the Bruins have accomplished so far this season.

NCAA Tournament Preview: UCLA

Head Coach: Ben Howland

Overall Record: 25-9

Pac-12 Conference Record: 13-5

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Shabazz Muhammad-17.8 ppg; Jordan Adams-15.3 ppg; Travis Wear-11.2 ppg; Kyle Anderson-9.8 ppg; Larry Drew II-7.6 ppg.

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Kyle Anderson-8.6 rpg; Shabazz Muhammad-5.3 rpg; Travis Wear-5.2 rpg; David Wear-5.0 rpg; Joshua Smith-4.2 rpg.

Go Gophers! Trev
Go Gophers!
Austin Hollins and the Gophers are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.
Go Gophers!

Notable wins: Georgia, Texas, Missouri, Long Beach State, California, Arizona, Stanford, Colorado

Notable losses: Georgetown, Cal Poly, San Diego State, Oregon, Washington State

Outlook

The Gophers second round matchup against UCLA is a tough one to predict. UCLA won the regular season Pac-12 title this season, but also went through some rough stretches as well.

The Bruins are led by freshman guard/forward combo Shabazz Muhammad, who leads the team in scoring and is likely to be a top 10 pick in the NBA draft this season should he choose to exit early.

UCLA can get up and down the court, averaging 74.7 points per game, which is 28th in the nation. The team also is averaging 16.1 assists per game, which is 11th in the country. However, the Bruins also give up a lot of points as well. In the Bruins' 34 games, they have given up at least 60 points or more 26 times.

Just before the NCAA tournament, UCLA suffered a big hit. The Bruins will be without freshman guard Jordan Adams after he broke his foot in their Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinal victory over Arizona on Friday. Adams is the team's second scorer and led the Pac-12 in steals with 73 this season. Sophomore Norman Powell will take his place in the starting lineup.

What could work in the Gophers favor is UCLA's depth. With the loss of Adams, the Bruins will likely stick to a seven-man rotation. If the Gophers can make this game into a track meet, there is a good chance they could move on.

 

 

NCAA Travel Blog: Trying for the Sweet 16

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March 23 - 6:30 p.m.

GAME INFORMATION | Watch the Tournament Online

Quotes from Today's Media Activities: Minnesota | Florida

Blog: Previewing the Gators (by GopherSports.com's Jeff Fett)

Yesterday, the Gophers had one final practice before taking on UCLA. Other than that, the team had all day to relax before playing the very last game of the NCAA Second Round.

The band and spirit squads (including national champion mascot Goldy, of course) have done a phenomenal job this weekend. They were at the 'Sota Social at the Tavern before the game, along with a lot of family and fans who had an opportunity to chat and have snacks before taking a shuttle to the arena.

Go Gophers! Gopher pep band
Go Gophers!
Our game ended up starting even later than planned when the Florida-Northwestern State game ran longer than expected. After getting to Austin on Wednesday afternoon, late Friday was a long time to wait to play. It was great to finally tip off at 9:22 p.m.

Go Gophers! about to tip off against UCLA
Go Gophers!
It was also great to see the Gophers take an early lead. Things got a little tense (for me, anyway) when UCLA chipped away at that lead at the beginning of the second half. And then it was hard not to start cheering on the sidelines when the Gophers pulled away again. After the 83-63 score went final, Tubby Smith and Dre Hollins did some on-court interviews. Smiley Dre got a lot of cheers going back to the locker room.

Go Gophers! Dre Hollins
Go Gophers!
After media obligations, we finally got back to the hotel around 12:30. The spirit squads and band again were very supportive, forming a tunnel for the team to go through as they went inside for the postgame meal.

The team had press conferences this afternoon, and will be finishing up their closed practice soon. A false fire alarm during Miami's practice earlier today pushed back the schedule for the rest of the practices. I used practice time to explore the surrounding part of campus. At Texas Memorial Stadium, a gate was ajar, so I walked through without asking, just to snap a couple pictures.

Go Gophers! Texas Memorial Stadium
Go Gophers!
Wearing my Minnesota shirt for the walk appears to have paid off. A nice man at the stadium told me he only let me in because he liked Tubby. On my way back to the Frank Erwin Center, someone said, "Go, Gophs!" to me out of a car window.

March 21 -10:30 p.m.

COMPLETE GAME INFO

Blog: Previewing the Gophers-UCLA Match-Up

Minnesota Pre-Tournament Quotes Get Acrobat Reader

It's fitting that I mentioned the bat bridge earlier today, because we ended up having a close encounter with a bat tonight. A few different times during the Gophers' open practice, everyone stopped for a moment while a bat flew around in the court area at the Frank Erwin Center. (See the video above for some bat footage.) The bat even went at Julian Welch. I don't think Dre Hollins was a big fan--he kept running away. I guess Barnyard animals follow the Gophers around even when they're not playing in Williams Arena.

Go Gophers! Frank Erwin Center
Go Gophers!

Before practice, the media had access to the team. The locker room was open to media for half an hour. Coach Tubby Smith and the two captains, Austin Hollins and Rodney Williams, fielded questions in the press conference area during part of that time. As most of the media cleared out of the locker room, we started watching the Michigan-South Dakota State game before heading out to the court for practice.

Go Gophers! Minnesota locker room sign
Go Gophers!

A few tidbits from the locker room:

Rodney Williams, on the city of Austin:
"It's a pretty nice city, from what we've seen. I'm most happy about getting out of the cold weather, just being somewhere warm."

Williams, on being back in the Tournament as a senior:
"It's definitely nice. To come in my freshman year and get to the Tournament and then not go for a couple years, that was tough. To go out with an NCAA Tournament, I think that's the best way to go out."

Andre Hollins, on his first NCAA Tournament experience:
"It's very exciting. As a kid, you grow up watching college basketball with a sense of excitement. You're on the couch watching these games back to back with the players playing their hearts out. You just hope that one day that's you. Now that I have the opportunity to be here, it's crazy. It's exciting."

Go Gophers! team at the NCAA Tournament
Go Gophers!

The Gophers will have one last practice tomorrow before playing in the very last game of the 2013 Second Round (formerly known as the First Round) at about 9:00 p.m. For information about the viewing party in Roseville, the 'Sota Social in Austin and home viewing options, scroll down to the bottom of this article.

March 21 - 3:00 p.m.

Thursday has a day of practice and meetings so far. Some of the staff attended morning meetings to go over tournament procedures so that everything would run smoothly later in the day and on game day. The coaches' meeting starts pretty soon, as well.

Go Gophers! Frank Erwin Center
Go Gophers!

Pictured above: Frank Erwin Center

At noon, the Gophers practiced at St. Edward's University in Austin. Several of us watched basketball on our phones on the way there. (Check out the NCAA March Madness Live app if you have a smart phone or tablet--but be prepared to charge your device soon if you do. The app is free and allows you to track scores and watch games live.) At practice, we could see passers-by stopping at the windows to take a peek at the Division I team using the Division II Hilltoppers' gym.

Go Gophers! practice at St. Edward's
Go Gophers!

Our bus driver gave us a nice tour of the University of Texas campus and other parts of Austin before bringing us back to the hotel. The Longhorns have some incredible facilities, and their campus is spread out like the University of Minnesota. Places we saw included the state capitol building, the Longhorns' football and baseball stadiums, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and a bridge under which a lot of bats live (kind of creepy). There would be pictures of some of this if we had gotten off the bus--maybe I will add some tomorrow if I have a chance to walk around in the morning.

It has been kind of fun just walking or driving around Austin and seeing some of the quirky things in this city. It seems like there are food trucks just about everywhere. There are a handful of them right outside our hotel, and there are some streets with a whole bunch them lined up in a row. On one street not far from our hotel, people have converted most of the houses into bars/restaurants.

The Gophers will be going back to the Frank Erwin Center for media availability and open practice tonight. Practice is open to the public and runs from 6:40 to 7:20.

March 20 - 7:30 p.m.

Go Gophers!
Mack Brown
Go Gophers!

March Madness has officially begun for the Golden Gopher basketball team. The team, band, cheerleaders, staff and others involved with the program flew to Austin, Texas, this afternoon to get ready for Minnesota's game against UCLA on Friday night.

We left Williams Arena and well-below-average "spring" temperatures late in the morning and arrived in balmy Texas this afternoon. The Minnesota Rouser played in the airport as we were boarding. When we got off the plane at the airport, it was nice not to need a winter coat. A local news crew was at the hotel when we arrived to greet our buses and interview Tubby Smith.

The Gophers had lunch at the hotel, and went to practice later in the evening, where they had a chance to meet Texas Longhorns football coach Mack Brown and listen to a little talk from him. The Gophers will have their first look at the Frank Erwin Center court tomorrow during open practice. Anyone in Austin who wishes may come to watch on Thursday. Minnesota's open practice runs from 6:40 to 7:20 p.m.

Info for Friday
The No. 11 Gophers will play No. 6 UCLA in the second game of the Friday night session. The first game will start at 6:27 p.m. CT, and the Gophers will start 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game between Florida and Northwestern State. Find both teams' game notes and all the other information you need on our preview page.

For Gopher Fans in Minnesota
There will be a viewing party at Joe Senser's in Roseville. If you would like, come early for the Gopher men's hockey game at 7 p.m. and stay for the basketball game at 9 p.m. There will be food and beverage specials and chances to win prizes.

If you're watching on TV at home, try these channels: Comcast 51, DirecTV 246, Dish 204. Or look for your provider with the TruTV channel finder. Games are also available online at ncaa.com.

For Gopher Fans in Austin
The NCAA Tournament edition of the 'Sota Social runs from 5-7 p.m. at the Tavern (922 West 12th Street, Austin, Texas, 78703). The event will feature snacks, a cash bar, prizes and entertainment. Starting at 6:30, fans can take a shuttle from the social to the arena for the game.