I’ll say it – I’ve drunk the Kool-aid.
The Gophers have brought a new life and excitement into this new season, and suddenly, it’s believable.
What a difference from last season when the Gophers ended the season mired in questions. This year – even if the Gophers win no more – they have ended it in accomplishment, evoking instead of frustrated inquisitions, a palpable hope for the future.
The improvement in players in the last couple weeks has been encouraging to say the least. If the team keeps improving into next year, the difference in results – from this regular season to next -- could be major.
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” Rodney Williams said. “I don’t know about other guys, but it’s definitely run through my mind because I’ve seen a lot of teams come do well in this tournament, and then the next season make a lot of noise. I’m hoping and praying that that does help us out next season.”
Williams' development is one of the most exciting things about the past four games. After hovering on the precipice for nearly three years, the junior has truly broken out. But just as importantly has been the growth of freshman Andre Hollins, who has come into his own in the postseason and has contributed a big role in the smoothness with which the Gophers are now playing.
“We think of him as a sophomore now,” Austin Hollins said. “He’s really grown over the course of the season and he’s starting to figure it all out. You know, it’s hard to be a freshman point guard, especially in the Big Ten. So his confidence is just growing, and he’s starting to figure it all out.”
Look for both to play a big role tonight if the Gophers are to advance.
• It seems unlikely that Oto Osenieks (concussion) would be available tonight, although it’s not impossible. The forward had a symptom-free day on Sunday and was re-evaluated yesterday. Still, it seems likely the Gophers would play it safe tonight.
• Ralph Sampson III has been practicing with the team, but has not played since the final game of the regular season, on March 3. Smith said he was available in the Gophers’ last game against Middle Tennessee State, but the center never played. His status for tonight is unknown.
• On Washington: Tony Wroten has been a solid force for the Huskies at point, and he and shooting guard Terrence Ross run the offense with 16.2 and 16.3 points a game, respectively … CJ Wilcox can light it up from three-point range … that’s not to say the Huskies don’t have size, too – seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye is averaging rebounds a game, but it’s safe to foul him: he’s shooting just 39.7 percent from the free-throw line. Coach Tubby Smith compared this team to Ohio State.