They didn’t make the tournament that all teams strive for, but Minnesota did make the most of its postseason this year. The Golden Gophers were left out of the NCAA Tournament after missing an opportunity to upset Michigan in overtime in the Big Ten Tournament, but then went on to play five more games in the NIT before losing to Stanford in the tournament’s championship. It proved to be a great learning opportunity for some of the club’s younger players and could turn into a great jump-off for next year’s team. But first, a look back:
- In a nutshell: There were a few phases to the Gophers’ season, beginning with the 12-1 start to the non-conference schedule. Then there was the sans-Trevor Mbakwe portion of the season, and things were just never the same from that point forward. They started the Big Ten schedule 0-4 and had another six-game losing streak mixed in there before making a run at the NIT title. Nothing stands out more than the loss of Mbakwe, though, and there’s no question that this would have been a very different team had he been healthy all year. If he returns next season, Minnesota can give a lot of teams trouble.
- Overachievement: By season’s end, freshman guard Andre Hollins was putting together games worthy of All-Big Ten consideration and looking like a future star. Stanford shut him down in the NIT title game (just four points) but he had dropped double-digit scoring outputs in each of the other tournament games, including 44 in the quarterfinal and semifinal games combined. His minutes were only in the teens early in the year but, by season’s end, he was logging 30-40 minutes a night. Read the rest of this entry »