The Minnesota Gophers Men’s Basketball season seems reminiscent of this winter. Around Christmas time, the snow falls and we enjoy it. At the same time, the Gophers roll over every opponent they face. But then the new year hits and we get sick of all the snow. And the Gophers start to sputter.
We get a few days of great weather and the Gophers play well in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament — but more snow comes just in time for the Gophers to get blown out against Wisconsin in the second round of said tournament. This loss put the Gophers just shy of a bid for the NCAA tournament, or “The Big Dance.” It’s a cold time of year for all Minnesotans, literally and metaphorically. The Gophers seem to be stuck in an eternal snow storm, and warmer weather feels a long way off.
After starting the regular season (12 – 0), the men finally lost a heartbreaker against Michigan by just three points. Then the bumpy road to March began. Beating Ohio State, then getting blown out by Iowa. Handling Wisconsin, then losing to Nebraska. And after all is said and done, getting ousted in the second round of the Big Ten tournament just felt like a sucker punch. And now with the NCAA tournament in full swing, Gophers Men’s Basketball finds themselves a 1-seed, in a second tier tournament, the NIT.
The 1-seed Gophers fought to a victory last week against the 8-seed High Point, the Big South regular season champion — now they square off against the 4-seed from California, Saint Mary’s.
An interesting stat about this tournament: 13 teams in the NIT were the regular season winners of their conference. That means of the 32 team field, over a third had the best record in their conference but failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Minnesota may have the high seed, but they can’t hide behind this number come game time.
In the NCAA tournament, six teams represent the Big Ten. Michigan State and Michigan, who played in the Big Ten championship, have started off fast, both advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Michigan State has also been slated as the clear favorite by sports analysts to win the tournament.
The Gophers may feel short-changed for not getting a bid to the NCAA tournament, but this is neither here nor there at this point. The tournament, with many regular season champs, will showcase several teams chomping at the proverbial bit to take home some hardware. Imagine 32 teams sitting outside in a snow storm and only one team gets the key to a warm house. The NIT is the snow storm and winning the tournament is the key. The snow continues to fall on the Northland and the Gophers are feeling a bit of a chill. But all is not lost for both parites. Warmer weather is on its way and the Gophers get their chance at redemption. Warm weather, please come soon. We all need it.