Despite a more aesthetically pleasing offense in Richard Pitino’s first season, the Minnesota Gophers’ offense was merely average during the 2013-2014 season, and slightly worse than Tubby Smith’s final season. Last season, the best shooters didn’t shoot enough.
Early in Malik Smith’s oh so short Golden Gopher career, a curious debate briefly waged on Twitter. The question at the center of the debate was its own answer. “Why is Malik Smith here besides shooting?” The answer was that Malik Smith was on the team almost entirely because of his shooting, and really, that should have been good enough.
Richard Pitino has brought a lot of attrition to the program, which, for a new coach, isn’t entirely surprising. But the amount of roster turnover during that past two seasons has been particularly hard to follow, with plenty of new recruits, transfers and other various reasons for players to come and go. A year ago we said goodbye to some seniors and welcomed a bevy of new faces. Next year will be the same, and with several new faces recently announced, it’s a perfect time…
Before Dan McHale joined Richard Pitino’s coaching staff, he was an assistant at Seton Hall. The Pirates were in a similar position to the Golden Gophers. They were a high- major program, but usually not the first choice for high-major recruits. Necessity being the mother of invention, the Pirates sought recruits in nontraditional places, especially the Canarias Basketball Academy (CBA). The Gophers are following that same strategy.
I guess I’ll start at the end. The Gophers are the 2014 NIT champions. The best of the second-best. The champion of the bubble teams. Conquerors of the consolation. All that. While it might not sound all that impressive only a year after being ranked as high as #8 in the nation and getting into the second round of the NCAA Tournament, think of the context. Exactly one year ago we were little more than a week into the Richard Pitino era. The son of…
I had planned to write about the reasons why the Golden Gophers N.I.T. championship mattered. I do think it matters and I’ll still write about why, but context matters too. The game of college basketball isn’t nearly as important as the lives of the people who are touched by the game we love. The twitterati, along with fans of teams that were able to participate in the NCAA tournament, snarkily declared the N.I.T. championship meaningless. In the grand scheme of things, it was meaningless. The world of college basketball, today alone, provided two examples of how a kids game played by kids and young adults doesn’t mean a whole lot in the tapestry of life. Lacey Holsworth died way too young of a disease too horrible. Meanwhile, UMass guard Derrick Gordon is finally himself, and finally happy. Death, and (a fuller, happier) life mean a lot more than any basketball game, any basketball season.
In the proper context of a kids’ game, here is why the N.I.T. mattered.
Richard Pitino will coach in his first non-conference tournament championship game of his career on Thursday night. The coach on the other bench is no stranger to championship basketball. Richard Pitino was five years old when Brown won the national title in 1988, 22 when Brown won his first NBA title with the Pistons. At age 31, Pitino hopes to give the 73 year old Brown his first N.I.T. championship loss.
In a game that felt like it would never end, and with a clown car of announcers and color commentators talking about anything other than the game in front of them, the Gophers overcame a back-breaking end of regulation to rebound and take care of Florida State in OT in the NIT semifinals, 67-64. With the game well in hand heading into the final 10 seconds of regulation, Malik Smith, perhaps the team’s best free throw shooter, clanked two attempts, resulting in utter panic and…
That was something, huh? Zips, if and when he wakes up from last night’s mind-numbing, never-ending Gophers win(?) will be back with his typically excellent game review, and I’ll be back later tonight with a preview of the NIT championship (!?) game. I have a few minutes to kill right now, just enough time to discuss some of the coaching situations that arose in the last few minutes last night.
For the second time in three seasons, the Gophers will play in the N.I.T. semi-finals in New York City. Their opponent, the Florida State Seminoles, failed to make the NCAA tournament in large part because of their loss back in December to the Golden Gophers in the Big Ten – ACC Challenge. The Gophers will be out for revenge too, in a bit more convoluted way. Their once “good win” over the Seminoles grew more mediocre as the season went on, and as the Seminoles slowly fell apart, so did Minnesota’s chance to return to the NCAA tournament.