Read my full story on Minnesota’s 75-70 loss to Temple here.
Three thoughts as I ponder my Puerto Rican dinner options:
1. Bazketball. We aren't in a Division I gym anymore. That much was certain on Thursday, when normal game procedure was, at times, a comedy of events. Some of the highlights:
*With only a few hundred fans on site, the game had the atmosphere and energy of a middle school JV matchup. Lots of awkward silences.
*There was no music during timeouts until the second half. Lots of awkward silences and shuffling of feet.
*The internet was more then a little sporadic throughout, and shut down entirely for 7 minutes while I was trying to file my "running gamer" (what we call the first game story I file at the final buzzer). Awkward silence for my editors.
*The scorekeeper told Minnesota coach Richard Pitino he had two timeouts left and then took one away from him, leading to some chaos at the end. He wasn't silent about that.
*The stat system crapped out less than one minute into the game, so there are no official stats until representatives finish rewatching the game and recreating every play. Good thing I keep my own stats.
*They gave media a sheet of "ballpark" statistics, which misses the point that stats are only useful if they are EXACTLY correct.
2. Not again. Minnesota is more than a little familiar with close losses in heartbreaking fashion. The Gophers had nine such losses last season, a trend that began in their holiday tournament, the NIT Season Tip-Off. This is a different team with a lot of different faces, so it makes no sense to jump to conclusions that the Gophers will endure a similarly discouraging trend this season, but the comparisons are still at the ready for those who were around. “I think the group we have will be able to learn from this,” senior Joey King said. “We went through it last year. Coach has been there, a lot of our players have been there before. I think it’s something we learned from last year and something we’re really willing to move on from.”
3. Star power. There are a lot of things we're still sorting out about this year's squad and plenty of questions about individuals remaining. One player that has been steady enough to avoid early scrutiny is sophomore guard Nate Mason, who was tabbed as one who needed to be a major stats leader for the Gophers to compete. He’s done that, putting up double digits points in every game, including 20 today and compiling 16 assists to just three turnovers. Minnesota will need more, but Mason’s steady production is a good place to start.