Gophers/Bulldogs Preview: The Gophers open the exhibition season against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The Bulldogs, coached by Gary Holquist, lost their top three leading scorers from a team that finished 20-11 overall and 14-6 in conference play last season. Holquist has a career record of 175-148 in 12 seasons, all at UMD.
Minnesota Duluth opened its exhibition season with a loss against the University of Wisconsin Green Bay by a score of 77-52. Sophomore guard Ryan Rasmussen led the Bulldogs with 15 points.
The Gophers were led last season by guard Lawrence Westbrook, who scored a career-high 12.6 points per game. Forward Damian Johnson also had a career year, as he registered 9.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Johnson and Westbrook, both seniors, are the captains for Tubby Smith's 2009-10 Gophers.
Preason Rankings: The University of Minnesota men's basketball program will begin the 2009-10 season as the 18th and 25th ranked team in the nation, according to the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' preseason and Associated Press polls, respectively.
The Gophers were last listed among the nation's best in a preseason poll prior to the 2002-03 season when they began as the 24th ranked team in the nation. That season, Minnesota spent the first eight weeks in the polls and reached as high as 17.
Minnesota spent seven-straight weeks in the polls last season, reaching as high as 17th in the ESPN/USA Today poll on Jan. 12. The Gophers entered the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the No. 23 ranked team in the country on Dec. 22, the first time they have been ranked since 2002-03
I Know What You Did Last Summer: A pair of Gopher forwards spent their summer away from Minneapolis, playing basketball of course. Junior Paul Carter, the team's leading returning rebounder, was part of a13-day, eight-game trip to China as a member of a Sports Reach ministry team. He averaged a team-high 15.6 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.
Sophomore Ralph Sampson III was among 17 players invited to participate in a tryout for the USA under-19 men's national team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Unfortunately, Sampson was among the last players cut from the team.
New Barn Floor: Williams Arena, originally built in 1928, has undergone many changes through its 81-year history and, on May 11, construction began on the next phase, a new floor. The project to replace the original floor was concluded on Aug. 28 and came with a price tag of roughly $600,000. Ironically, the original construction expense for Williams Arena was $650,000.
- The original floor was installed in 1928.
- The arena was initially named The University of Minnesota Field House.
- When the building was remolded in 1950 it was renamed in honor of Dr. Henry L. Williams, the U of M football coach from 1900-21.
- In the remodel it was built for basketball and hockey (the old Mariucci and current Sports Pavilion) with a capacity of 18,025 for basketball.
- From 1950-71, Williams Arena had the largest capacity of any collegiate basketball arena in the country at 18,025.
- After the 1950 remodel, Williams Arena was granted the 1951 NCAA Finals (Kentucky defeated Kansas, 68-58).
- The arena underwent major renovations in 1991-93 and 1997.
- After the additional renovations, fire code restrictions put the capacity at what it is today, 14,625.
- The University of Minnesota men's program has only had two losing seasons in Williams Arena since 1935-36.
- The Gopher men have an overall record of 710-279 (.718) at Williams Arena, while the Gopher women have an overall record of 212-108 (.663).
- 1,407 Golden Gopher basketball games (men's and women's) were contested on the Williams Arena floor.
- 17 Gopher men's All-Americans and 13 Gopher women's All-Americans donned jerseys on the Williams Arena floor.
- The most individual points scored in Williams arena is 45 from Michigan State's Scott Skiles (1/18/86).
2008-09 recap: The Gophers were led in 2008-09 by junior guard Lawrence Westbrook, who averaged a career-high 12.6 ppg. Westbrook scored in double-figures in 25 of the 32 games he has played this season. Minnesota was 18-9 last season when Westbrook reached double-figures and 11-3 when he led the team in scoring. Westbrook was named All-Big Ten honorable mention following the regular season.
- Junior Damian Johnson averaged a career-high 9.8 ppg, leading the team with 60 blocks and ranking second on the team with 58 steals. Johnson was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team following the regular-season.
- Johnson's 60 blocks ranks eighth all-time in a single-season at Minnesota. He has amassed 124 career blocks, eighth-most in Gopher history. Also, Johnson's 58 steals is tied for the ninth-most in a season, while his 131 career thefts is also tied for the ninth-most in Gopher history.
- Gopher sophomore Al Nolen led the team with 143 assists. He will enter the 2009-10 season with 259 career assists (3.9 apg), nine dimes short of 10th on Minnesota's career all-time assists list.
- Nolen also led the team with 64 steals in 2008-09, tied for the fifth most in a season in Gopher history (he collected 64 as a freshman as well). His 128 career thefts is 10th on Minnesota's career all-time steals list.
- Minnesota had 11 players averaging at least 11 minutes per game. Those 11 players also averaged at least 3.7 points per game.
- Minnesota broke its school record for blocks in a season by recording six against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament, and the Gophers finished the season with 201 blocks.