Bobby Knight was impressed by the play of the Gophers in their 67-64 overtime victory over Florida State in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
“I thought [the Gophers] played very well in critical situations,” said Knight, who is doing color commentary on the tournament for ESPN. “They had a chance where they could have been beaten, but they stayed away from it. They showed a lot of poise when the game went into overtime.”
Knight praised Gophers junior point guard DeAndre Mathieu, who scored 17 points and orchestrated the team’s offense.
“He did a good job … throughout the course of the game, getting the ball to people,” Knight said. “Minnesota’s inside game is pretty good. They played against a very athletic team in Florida State. They did a very good job in the game [Tuesday].”
But Knight said he believes SMU, Minnesota’s opponent in the championship game, is the better of the two teams and will win Thursday’s title game. He said that SMU has great guards and more talent than the Gophers and that it will be tough for Richard Pitino’s team to defeat the Mustangs to became NIT champions in his first year as head coach.
“They’re just very good,” Knight said about SMU. “They have a really good guard [sophomore leading scorer Nic Moore]. They play the game extremely well and they have been good the entire season. That’ll be a tough game, a very tough game for [Minnesota].”
SMU played a tough schedule and twice defeated UConn, a Final Four squad, and won games over Memphis and Cincinnati. The Mustangs have 27 victories, compared to the Gophers’ now official university record of 24 wins.
Knight also praised SMU coach Larry Brown, who ranks with the great coaches in the game. He’s also the only coach to win both an NBA title (2004 with the Detroit Pistons) and an NCAA championship (with the Kansas Jayhawks in 1988).
“He has done a very good job wherever he has been, and he has done a really good job with SMU,” Knight said. “They’ve beaten some very good teams this year and very good teams [in the NIT] to get here.”
Southern Methodist, like the Gophers, was close to making the NCAA tournament but just missed that accomplishment and took a No. 1 seed in the NIT. The other similarity between the two squads is they both defeated teams that reached the Final Four. SMU defeated Connecticut 75-65 at home and 64-55 at UConn, while the Gophers defeated Wisconsin 81-68 at Williams Arena on Jan. 22.
U seeking consultants
Scott Ellison, Gophers associate athletic director for facilities, says the university is going to hire a consultant to study the utilities and traffic implications for the potential new athletics complex.
Reports are the consultant could cost around $80,000. The $190 million fundraising project is ongoing, but this initial consultation also was part of the process when the university built its football stadium.
“We did something similar to this when we built TCF Bank Stadium, where we did the scoping part,” Ellison said. “We had to take a look at all the utilities required and all the utilities that run into the ground there and work on it from there.”
Ellison said the consultant would have nothing to do with fundraising or design, focusing strictly on infrastructure aspects of the new sports complex.
“They’ll take a look at the plans that we established through the master plan process and we’ll scope that,” he said. “We’ll look at utilities, the underground utilities that might have to move, we’ll look at traffic, traffic flow on the property — pedestrian and vehicle. Really that’s all we’re doing, we’re not looking at designing facilities, we’re just kind of looking at the site and the flow of traffic on the property.”
Proposals for the study are due by April 17, with answers to be available by Aug. 1.