Rand: Gophers still on the fringes in men's basketball

  • Updated: March 17, 2014 - 12:11 AM

Gophers guard Deandre Mathieu didn’t have numbers in his favor as he went against the Wisconsin defense on Friday in the Big Ten tournament, and the numbers went against the Gophers on Selection Sunday, too.

Photo: Kiichiro Sato • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

This year’s Gophers men’s basketball team got what it deserved on Selection Sunday, falling just short of an NCAA bid in a season where it fell just short in a lot of critical games. One more victory — overtime at Michigan State, triple overtime at Purdue, home against Northwestern, home against Illinois, Wisconsin in the conference tournament — might have done it.

Ultimately, it matters but doesn’t really matter. This was not a team destined to make a run even if it would have sneaked into the tournament. The mission with first-year head coach Richard Pitino is bigger than one season.

His mission is this: Get this program into a position where it is not on the NCAA bubble year after year.

That’s where the Gophers have resided, at their best, in virtually every season since the Final Four trip of 1997. Look back at the history:

• The year the academic fraud scandal broke, 1999, the Gophers were 17-11 overall and 6-10 in the Big Ten but still made the NCAA field.

• Dan Monson’s squads had bubbles burst in 2002 and 2003, winding up in the NIT. They had a little breathing room in Monson’s only NCAA season of 2005, but still that was a one-and-done trip as a No. 8 seed.

• Tubby Smith’s three NCAA tournament teams were all double-digit seeds and had to sweat more on Sunday than Adrian Peterson.

That’s it. The sum total, since that magical Final Four season of 17 (!) years ago, is eight NIT appearances (including this year), five NCAA berths and exactly one NCAA tournament victory. In some of those years, the Gophers started fast and faded. In other years, they were consistently decent. In a few seasons, they were flat-out awful, but those have been rare.

This season seemed to have NIT stamped on it before the opening tip. The Gophers were remaking on the fly with a young head coach and a slapdash recruiting class while big questions about their interior play loomed. The fact that they were perhaps a victory away from the NCAA tourney is a good sign for the future.

In the end, though, it was the quintessential post-Final Four Gophers season: some big wins, some crushing losses and a decision left in the hands of the selection committee.

That is how middle-of-the-pack programs function, and it is no way to live. We long for a day when the only question on Selection Sunday is what high seed the Gophers are getting. That’s when you will know a new era has arrived.

michael rand

  • related content


    Sunday March 16, 2014

    TIPSHEETKNOW THISThe Gophers can only look back at all their close losses and think that a victory in any one...

  • Glen Perkins: The new face (and beard) of Twins

    Sunday March 16, 2014

    Twins closer Glen Perkins signed a contract extension on Friday that could keep him in Minnesota as long as Joe...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Cincinnati - LP: J. Broxton 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 9
NY Yankees - WP: C. Capuano 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3
Philadelphia - LP: J. Diekman 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 4
Boston - WP: A. Ranaudo 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Archer 4
Miami - LP: C. Hatcher 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter 5
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 6 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 7 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: S. Carroll 1
Texas - WP: S. Baker 13 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: N. Ramirez 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: P. Neshek 2
Colorado - LP: R. Brothers 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: B. Ziegler 5
Oakland - LP: J. Lester 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 4
Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 3
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 8 FINAL
Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez 3
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 13
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
Arizona 58
Penn State 7:30 AM
Troy 11:00 AM
(7) UCLA 11:00 AM
Western Mich 11:00 AM
(5) Ohio State 11:00 AM
Appalachian St 11:00 AM
Ga Southern 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 2:00 PM
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Marshall 2:30 PM
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Houston 3 FINAL
Sporting Kansas City 1
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota 71 FINAL
Phoenix 85





question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters