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Wednesday (Who are these Gophers teams?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Gophers Updated: March 28, 2012 - 8:32 AM

Look at that image of Andre Hollins (AP photo) from overtime of last night's 68-67 victory over Washington. He's taking on two bigger defenders, deftly shielding one while rising above the other. Two Gophers assistant coaches are in the background, and while their faces are blurred it looks like they are somewhere between smiling and optimistically wondering where this play is headed. We'll tell you where: In the hoop for the final two points of the evening, the clinching bucket in a back-and-forth game that earned Minnesota -- which a couple weeks ago was considered to be on the NIT bubble after a disastrous finish to the regular season -- into Thursday's title game against Stanford.

Who are these Gophers?

We ask that of the men's basketball team, which has won four consecutive NIT games -- all against RPI top 100 teams, three of them on the road and last night on the neutral court of Madison Square Garden. They do not play like the Gophers we watched all year. They are quick. They are athletic. They are tough. And they don't fold when adversity arrives. Sure, they could have closed out Washington in regulation (the Huskies tied it late after a terrible no-call when Hollins' jersey was grabbed on a turnover), but it was almost better for them to give it up and then improbably rally again.

We also ask that of the men's hockey team, which certainly had higher expectations after its regular season than did the basketball team, but still gave Minnesota sports fans something to which we are not often accustomed. Yes, the hockey team is a good team that played even better when it mattered most. In fact, they played two of their best games of the season in the NCAA regional to reach the Frozen Four.

Pardon our surprise at all of this. If you saw this coming, please do let us know.

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