Read my full story on tonight's 66-56 loss at Michigan here.
To be certain, Saturday was a missed opportunity.
The Gophers were within 2 with just over four minutes to play against the Big Ten's top team, and the nation's No. 16 team, at their house.
The NCAA selection committee would have probably liked that.
Minnesota, which has gone just 2-7 on the road in the Big Ten this year, its only wins over Penn State and Northwestern, could have really used this one. It would have put the Gophers in relatively solid positioning to slide into the Big Dance, with their final regular-season game coming at home against the Nittany Lions.
Still, it's hard to look at the loss with too much discouragement.
After dropping a pair of ugly games against Illinois and at Ohio State, the Gophers have been playing much better basketball -- at least offensively -- in their last two games. You have intriguing new pieces like Charles Buggs. A veteran like Austin Hollins is breaking out of his slump, perhaps just in tim to help carry the Gophers to the promised land. The defense still isn't great but hey ... you can't have everything, Gophers fans.
*Tenacity. The Gophers showed lots of it. Coming back from an 11-point deficit at halftime that, against great teams like Michigan, can be as good as a death sentence. Hanging around despite a flurry of Wolverines runs. Battling at the end. Minnesota didn't win the final battle, but they were definitely in the war.
*Hey, a glimpse of that balance attack again. There was offensive production from Elliott Eliason that we haven't seen in a long time. Mo Walker had some good moves in the paint (although he was decidedly less aggressive late). Michigan took some of that away in the second half, but still the resurrected ability to get the ball inside was encouraging, as were Minnesota's 32 points in the paint.
*Austin is back. Two consecutive games where he looked mostly like his old self. That is extremely positive for the Gophers looking ahead to the final stretch. The flaw, of course, were his three turnovers, but he did have two steals on the other end.
*Turnovers. They were a big part in taking the Gophers out of their strong start to the first half, and they made things much more difficult to recover from in the second. Minnesota turned the ball over on 18.6 percent of its possession, hampering their offensive output -- the Gophers ultimately scored just .95 points per possession.
*Consistency. How many times this year have we said it? If only Minnesota could put together two strong halves instead of one, it would be in a much different place altogether. But ifs ands or buts don't matter to the bottom line. The Gophers just need to do it every time if they're to compete with the best.
*Defense. At some point maybe I'll stop making this a bullet point and just let you guys make your assumptions. It is what it is with Minnesota. The Wolverines scored 1.12 points per possession and shot 50 percent from the field and 39.1 precent from three-point range after starting the game 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. This isn't out of the ordinary. This is why the Gophers offense just has to be very, very good.