The frontcourt could be a bit thinner tonight as the Gophers face Stanford in the NIT championship.
Elliott Eliason has been battling flu-like symptoms including headaches and fever in the last few days and said he felt “weak and it showed” on Tuesday, making his status questionable for tonight.
Still, a team source said he expects Eliason to start and play better than Tuesday, when the forward grabbed eight rebounds but did not score.
Ralph Sampson III (knee), who has not played since the last game of the regular season, is still expected to be on the bench in the final.
Earlier in the day, Sampson tweeted: “Post Season play is my fav time of year. Wishing I could play but I am so proud of my teammates for stepping up! Let’s get this 1 tonight!”
If Eliason is ineffective early, the Gophers will switch to Andre Ingram, a team source said. Ingram scored a career-high nine points on Tuesday. He played 24 minutes in that game (also tying a career high) and showed he could be relied upon in that capacity. Generally, Ingram has played better when getting double-digit minutes this season. The other game where Ingram played 24 minutes was against Miami in the second round, where he scored his previous high, eight points and a personal record six rebounds.
• Oto Osenieks is still not available to play due to effects of a concussion he sustained in the Miami game.
• A win tonight would make Tubby Smith the tenth coach to have won both an NCAA title and an NIT title. Other coaches: Vadal Peterson (Utah), Nolan Richardson (Tulsa – NIT; Arkansas – NCAA), Bob Knight (Indiana), Adolph Rupp (Kentucky), Joe B. Hall (Kentucky), Al McGuire (Marquette), Dean Smith (North Carolina), Jim Calhoun (Connecticut) and Nat Holman (CCNY).
• Smith’s team (he was then at Kentucky) beat Stanford in the NCAA semifinal in 1998, the year his team cut down the nets. Gopher assistant coach Saul Smith was on that team.
• Minnesota won the NIT in the same season as the Wildcats’ NCAA win, though records from that season have been vacated due to the academic fraud scandal.
• Associate head coach Ron Jirsa, previously an assistant under Smith at Tulsa and Georgia, will interview Wednesday for the head coaching job at Division III Northland College in Ashland, Wis. The school, located about 70 miles east of Duluth, competes in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. Northland athletic director Bill Wilson said two other candidates interviewed this week; Jirsa will be the third and final candidate to interview. Wilson said he expects to name a new coach shortly after that.