Well they won. Winning is better than losing, right? Even in the NIT which forces me and you to watch another game that we barely care about. They certainly tried to lose, but FSU just wanted the loss more. Anyway, here are ten things I liked and didn't like.
1. Joey King was a total spaz. For someone who was such a big part of the offense in this NIT run to win with him scoring just 3 points is a good thing. He only played 7 minutes due to foul trouble from the get go and I have no idea what he was doing out there. With Eliason out the Gopher "bigs" were in such bad shape Oto had to come back and play, yet King's out there jumping around like a little kid up past his bedtime. Maybe he was trying to hard to be a major factor, but the majority of his fouls were just stupid and caused by hyperactivity and lack of body control. It was probably the worst game anybody has ever played in the history of basketball. Probably.
2. Speaking of Oto, was it all just a lie? It has to be, right? Just a month or so ago we were all told Oto had such a serious injury that he had to hang it up for his career, yet here the Gophers are short handed and all of a sudden he's not only playing, but playing 32 minutes. He mostly looked like a guy who hadn't been playing basketball, but he made due with a hell of an effort and was pretty key for the Gophers - that rebound off a missed FT he grabbed in overtime was 100% pure hustle as he was boxed out by two Seminoles and just forced his way through. But clearly Pitino told hm he probably wasn't going to get minutes next year and Oto chose to retire rather than transfer, and they concocted this bogus story. I get it, but it sucks when it blows up like this. I can never trust anyone ever again.
3. Florida State did the Gophers a lot of favors. With Minnesota undermanned and undersized in the paint FSU should have attacked the basket all night. They grabbed 43% of their misses and were clearly better and bigger, but for some reason the majority of the night they were content to shoot perimeter jumpers, going 1-9 in the first half from three and then still doing it, going 3-9 in the second half and overtime. When they made their big run to take the lead as the game was winding down they did it by pounding the ball inside, mainly to Okaro White, and it worked (helped by a Gophers shooting slump). I have no idea why this wasn't the game plan consistently, especially when everyone on the Gophers ended up with foul trouble. I assume it's because Florida State is a dumb team, year after year.
4. Speaking of FSU, their defense was really horrible. It's surprising because Leonard Hamilton almost always has his Seminole teams as top defensive squads and their size, but the Gopher guards had their way with FSU driving to the paint last night. Fifty-one of the teams 67 points came from their guards, which shouldn't be surprising given the team make-up I guess, but Austin Hollins was as driving machine all night and Dre Hollins and Dre Mathieu were able to waltz in for easy layups on back to back plays near the end of regulation. With Florida State's size and shot blocking (23rd in the country by percentages) two little guys like that shouldn't be able to get to the rim, but they did it consistently either scoring or finding others for open looks. FSU also turned the ball over a ton, but enough about FSU. They done.
5. The A topic on twitter last night was the horrible announcing team. And they weren't wrong. Bobby Knight was terrible. Long stretches with no talking, rambling Abe Simpson like stories about wearing an onion on his belt (it was the style at the time) and his old teams and players, harping on the same points over and over, and asking his colleagues questions about the game he was allegedly watching. I usually like Knight as an announcer and I'm not going to make the obvious joke about him being drunk and/or senile because it was pretty clear he was just completely bored with the game. Even as it got towards the end and was supposedly getting pretty exciting he was still droning on about some dude from his 1978 team or something. He clearly has no interest in the NIT, and honestly I can't even blame him. Even I just wanted that game to hurry up and end.
6. The court was left alone, unlike NCAA games. You remember
how back in the day the host schools court for the NCAA Tournament
basically looked the way the court always looked? Maybe they'd change a
logo or two but it was basically the same? And now how they white wash
all courts to look identical, so if you're watching a game in Orlando
and switch to a game in Anaheim it looks exactly the same except the
location name is on the baseline? I was afraid they'd do something
similar to MSG, but luckily they left it alone other than replacing any
Knicks stuff with NIT stuff. Maybe it was apathy because it's the NIT, I
don't know but I liked it. I'm actually now realizing I didn't notice
if they changed it for the Sweet 16/Elite 8 games. This would be a way
better point if I remembered to notice.
7. Malik Smith is broken. It's to the point where I'm actually feeling bad for him since this is the way his career is ending. He missed three of his four free throw attempts including two with eight seconds left and the Gophers up 3 so one make wins the game, and all four of his three-point attempts which drops him to two makes in his last 34 attempts and a line of 8-58 since he exploded against Nebraska. Did that game wreck him? It shouldn't considering he had a few games like that in his FIU days, but the results since are pretty remarkable. If you watch him his fundamentals are all over the place now too - he's not even squaring up to shoot a lot of the time. It would be nice for him to have a good game to close out his career against SMU, but at this point I think you have to hope for just a non-shitty game.
8. The Gophers did a really nice job of shutting down Aaron Thomas. Thomas played 36 minutes before fouling out and managed just 3 points on 1-8 shooting. Thomas led the team in scoring this year at 14.1 per, hit double figures in 16 straight games and 27 of their last 30, and had been over 20 points in each of their NIT victories before the Gophers stopped him. This is where I'd write about how they did it but I forgot to pay attention to it and by the time I realized they had completely stymied him he was in the process of fouling out. I'm a really good blogger.
9. Dre Hollins looked a lot better. His shot is still iffy, but he seemed much more lively to me and was attacking the rim more like he did prior to his injury, and his defense was a lot better too. He's had 2 steals in three of four NIT games, and prior to that the last time he had more than 1 was the Ohio State, two games prior to getting hurt. He's also had 7 and 4 assists the last two games with the last time he had more than 3 the Purdue game in Minneapolis on January 5th. I was of the opinion that shutting him down for the NIT and making sure he's healthy for next season might have made some sense, but everything seems to be coming up Milhouse so party on.
10. So now the Gophers have a chance at a Championship. And what do you hear over and over? "Making a deep run in the NIT is a springboard to success the following season." Is this true? I don't know, let's look.
NIT CHAMPIONS (next season results):
2013: Baylor (sweet 16) over Iowa (First Four)
2012: Stanford (missed tournament) over Minnesota (second round)
2011: Wichita State (first round) over Alabama (first round)
2010: Dayton (missed tournament) over North Carolina (elite 8)
2009: Penn State (missed tournament) over Baylor (elite 8)
That's the last five years which is all the effort I'm going to put into this. Seven of the 10 teams made the NCAA Tournament the following year with four of those recording a victory. I'm going to say that making the NIT Championship is a decent indicator of a team that makes the NCAA Tournament the following season but that's about it - and I'll take it. With only two seniors departing from this team they fit the profile. Maybe next year is the year I will finally see LOCK: Minnesota in ESPN's Bubble Watch. Still waiting.
Up next is SMU, a really good team who probably should have made the NCAA Tournament. I might preview it if I feel like it later. No promises.