March Madness is alive and well in both the men and women's college basketball tournaments! My bracket was busted way beyond repair when I picked the wrong early upsets like picking Ohio State over Dayton. Three of the twelve seeds upset the five seeds, and that has never happened before. I only picked one of them right. I had Michigan State winning the whole thing. That was in the NCAA Men's Tournament. But that is not what this post is about.
I want to talk about who is still playing basketball in April. If you are a Golden Gopher basketball fan like I am, last night's game was a real nail biter. Bobby Knight was the analyst and could not say a nice thing about the Gophers almost all night long. He really got on Richard Pitino for the way he handled the last play of the game and the last play in overtime.
On a side note, years ago I asked Coach Knight what he thought when he brought his Indiana teams into Williams Arena, better known in these parts as The Barn. He told me he loved playing in The Barn because his teams always beat the Gophers! I have another Bobby Knight/Bill Musselman story but that is irrelevant to this post!
I want to talk about how there are only two Big Ten teams playing yet in April. Wisconsin is in the Final Four. The other Big Ten team to be playing for a national championship is our own Minnesota Gophers tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden for the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Granted, the NIT is not The Big Dance they wanted to be playing in, but with a win tomorrow night they can still hang another national championship banner in Williams Arena!
Had they gotten into the NCAA Tournament, they would have been a low seed and probably be watching that Final Four like every other team in America except for Florida, Kentucky, Wisconsin and the University of Connecticut, better known as UConn, on Saturday.
I think playing these extra five games has helped the Gophers tremendously! The younger players have five more games of experience in which to build their confidence. Joey King has played very well and you can see the self-confidence building in his game. DeAndre Mathieu has shown the entire country just how quick and fast he is. I have watched him grow into a very good point guard, which the Gophers have needed for a long time. Mo Walker has also shown a tremendous increase in his presence around the basket and his ability to shoot from outside the Paint. Andre Hollins has also shown what he is capable of doing on any given night. He still needs to be consistent, and hopefully that will come in his senior year. I am anxious to watch them play next year.
Whatever happens tomorrow night the Gophers can call coach Richard Pitino's first season a successful one. Granted, they didn't make the NCAA Tournament, finished only 8 and 10 in the Big Ten conference, but could end up with a 25 and 13 record and a national championship. That spells a successful first year for me.
Another fun part of watching the game last night was how much the announcers talked about and showed Rick Pitino during the game. It was fun to see him sitting behind his son watching him cheer for the Gophers. I am sure there will be more of that tomorrow night in the National Invitation Tournament Championship Game in Madison Square Garden in New York City! That is fun to say!
I look forward to your comments.
Mike Patrick U of M '80 Basketball Season Ticket Holder for thirty-three years!