Richard Pitino has put himself in contention for coach of the year

A win over Michigan on Saturday will give the Gophers 20 on the season, 12 more than they won all of last season.
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Minnesota's last-second win over Indiana Wednesday night tied the Gophers record for biggest one-year turnaround.

The Gophers mucked their way through a brutal 2015-16 season, finishing 8-23. They're already 11 wins better this season, and at 19-7 with five regular season games to go, Richard Pitino's Gophers are poised to shatter the record. The Big Ten record is 15, according to the Star Tribune.

Tubby Smith led an 11-win improvement in his first season at Minnesota in 2007-08.

Minnesota is a near lock for the NCAA Tournament, sitting as a No. 7 seed in Joe Lunardi's updated bracketology at ESPN.com. There's a chance the Gophers could earn the second-highest NCAA seed in school history.

In addition to making Selection Sunday more comfortable for Gophers fans, Pitino has firmly placed himself in the mix for Big Ten Coach of the Year.

  • 11 wins improved tying a school record and most in the NCAA
  • 5 wins improved in Big Ten play (just 2 conference wins last season)
  • Recruited a top Big Ten freshman, Amir Coffey
  • Transfers Akeem Springs and Reggie Lynch are playing great
  • Winning despite key transfer Davonte Fitzgerald tearing his ACL in pre-season practice
  • Most Big Ten road wins since 2004-05 (4)
  • 4-0 in February after a 5-game losing streak to end January

Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart thinks the award will come down to Pitino, Northwestern’s Chris Collins and Maryland’s Mark Turgeon. He gives the edge to Collins because Northwestern is probably going to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

But at 34, the youngest Power Five conference coach in the country, Pitino has turned a team that was an embarrassment on and off the court last season to a true Big Ten contender.

Collins might be the favorite to win the award, but a strong finish from Pitino could leave him holding the award when it's all said and done.

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