In case you haven’t noticed, the Gopher men are still playing basketball.
Last Tuesday, Austin Hollins — who has now played in more games (139) than any player in U of M basketball history — scored 32 as part of the Gophers 81 – 73 win over the visiting Golden Eagles from Southern Miss.
The win allows the Gophers to join Clemson, Florida State and SMU as the last teams standing in the NIT, with semifinal and final game contests to be played at historic Madison Square Garden starting tonight.
First year Coach Richard Pitino sounded stoked about the prospect of going back east in his reported comments after the game:
“My roots are really there, it’s exciting for me,” said Pitino “I had a lot of great moments as an assistant coach, we won some Big East tournaments.”
“There’s no better place in all of college basketball than to play in Madison Square Garden.”
The Gophers’ first opponent in the Final Four is Florida State, who they defeated 71 – 61 back on December 3rd at Williams Arena. A win will give them a spot in the championship game against either Clemson or SMU on April 3rd.
In the name of good clean fun, I’ve been quick to tease the Gophers and belittle the NIT as a “leftovers” bracket for teams that failed to qualify for the 68-team NCAA Tournament.
I stand by my teasing and belittling in general, but in sincerity, if the Gophers are able to string together a couple more wins at MSG and win the NIT title, it would be positive publicity that could potentially aid the young Pitino in securing better recruits over the next year or two.
C’mon Gophers — there’s nothing you can do about the past. Let’s win these next two games and move forward into the 2014-2015 season on a positive note.
The Golden Gophers (23 – 13) NIT semifinal game against the Seminoles (22 – 13) will be televised tonight on ESPN2 at 8 pm.