Thursday, April 24, 2014

Welcome aboard, Zach Lofton and Bakary Konate!

The Gophers' 2014 recruiting class is now complete (probably) with the recent signings of Zach Lofton (who almost certainly won't be eligible until 2015) and Bakary Konate, who join Gaston Diedhiou, Josh Martin, Carlos Morris, and Nate Mason to make up Richard Pitino's first official recruiting class.  It's not an amazing class by any means, with 247sports ranking it 9th in the Big Ten (this doesn't include Lofton since he's a transfer from Illinois State) but it's a dramatic shift in personnel traits.  All five of the freshmen are extremely athletic and should be able to get up and down the court.  Make no mistake - this team is changing.

Konate, who ranks as the 182nd best player and 15th best center by 247sports, is originally from Spain, and most recently played at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas.  Louisville had offered earlier, however Konate's academics weren't in order and the Cardinals moved on.  The Gophers swept in and grabbed him over Texas A&M, Tulane, and Creighton, foregoing any other visits other than to Minnesota because he says he knew this is where he wanted to be.  So that's cool.  Konate still needs to take the SAT and get a good enough score to gain admission to Minnesota, but his coach says that shouldn't be a problem.  Which is exactly what he has to say.

Hopefully it isn't an issue, because Konate sounds like he's going to be fun.  He's big, strong, and super athletic and he does two really fun things - blocks shots and hits outside jumpers.  He's a true center at 6-11, and although they say he's not super polished on the block the fact that he can step out and hit 2s and even 3s adds a nice wrinkle.  The one big weakness they say is that he's not as strong in the lower body as he is in the upper, which could get him pushed around in the Big Ten, but if Pitino can get Mo Walker to lose weight, hopefully he can get Konate to gain weight.  He's a great pick up this late.  Not much video out there, but here's him dunking against a D-I team.

Zach Lofton, originally from Columbia Heights, is transferring in from Illinois State.  It's said he'll be applying for a waiver to play right away next season, but he doesn't really have any good reasons for one so it's unlikely.  Of course, this being the NCAA who the hell knows what they'll decide.  Once Lofton decided to leave the Illinois State program he didn't look at anybody other than the Gophers, hoping they'd make him an offer.  They did, and despite a lot of whining and questioning from rubes at Gopher Hole, I think this is an excellent signing.

Lofton scored 11.3 points per game for the Redbirds last season (he also spent a year at a JuCo), which would normally have fans very excited, but his .339 shooting percentage including .292 from three has some fans up in arms about how he "sucks" and using a scholarship for three years is "a waste" and how the Gophers should get someone better (because everyone is just clamoring to transfer here).  Perhaps fans are scarred by the whole Malik Smith thing (small school volume shooter with iffy percentages), but this is a very different situation.  I promise.

For one thing, Malik Smith was a three point shooter and that's basically it.  His final year at FIU he took 71% of his shots from behind the 3-point line and only 12% at the rim.  Lofton took 52% from behind the arc and 19% at the rim last season - those are marked differences.  Smith went a little more extreme with the Gophers at 78% and 10%, but even if Lofton shifts more towards a 3-point shooter role (I don't expect this to happen) he would probably wind up with similar splits as Dre Hollins last year, a vastly different type of player than Malik Smith.

Watching the video on him (see below) some of his shot selection is cringe-worthy but he's also light years ahead of Malik in terms of athleticism.  I also don't see Pitino giving Lofton the same green light he game Smith given that they don't have a past relationship.  Illinois State was also a very young team which may have played a part as well.

The other thing people are all pantie bunched about is that he had some disciplinary issues and missed the final 3 games of the Redbirds' season.  Unless you're the kind of person who wants your players' all squeaky clean I don't see why this should bother you.  He was a little bit immature but it was clear this whole thing came about because of a bad relationship with his coach and there are two other players transferring out as well, both of whom played in every game last season, which tells me maybe the clash isn't because Lofton is some kind of bad seed.  There were also four transfers out the prior season, the current coach's first.

So you have a coach with 7 players transferring out since he got the job.  Hard for me to not give Lofton the benefit of the doubt, and even if he did act like kind of a dick (he did) who really cares?  Who cares about the 3 game suspension?  When Mo Walker was basically carrying the team did anyone give a shit about his early season suspension?  These things happen, and as long as the player stays eligible I don't really give a crap.  If he's acting up and being a general shithead I trust Pitino can handle it.  He's a completely worthwhile signee and in his first season he'll have a chance to step in and be a big offensive cog for the team considering both Dres will be gone.  I'm baffled by the people who are upset about this.  Well, I guess I'm not, actually.  I've pretty much come to expect it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Twins ditch Mastroianni, pick up Sam Fuld. Upgrade?

[And right as I post this I see on Twitter the Gophers picked up commitments from Zach Lofton and Bakary Konate.  Post coming on that tomorrow.]

Never let it be said that I don't tackle the tough questions on this blog. With the Twins grabbing Sam Fuld of waivers and subsequently losing Darin Mastroianni to the Blue Jays it's finally time to look at the big question every is asking these days - who is the better sixth outfielder?  I know, I'm brave to put myself out there like this on such an important and controversial topic, but someone has to do it.  The people demand answers.

Mastroianni's career slash numbers are .220/.288/.295, while Fuld's are .233/.312/.334 - both pretty terrible.  Fuld's minor league career numbers are .283/.371/.402, and Mastroianni is at .280/.370/.370.  Generally pretty comparable and crappy.  The differences are Fuld walks a little bit more, Mastroianni strikes out about twice as often, and although neither is going to hit it out of the park very often Fuld has slightly more gap power.  Edge to Fuld.  Since we're talking sixth outfielder here (when everyone's healthy) the biggest value these guys could bring is as a pinch hitter, and I would definitely feel better with Fuld up there than Mastroianni who mostly just made me roll my eyes.  He's not a great bat by any means, but he is an upgrade.

Both had some success stealing bases in the minors and both have exactly one big league season with a nice steals total - Mastroianni had 21 in 2012, Fuld 20 in 2011.  For their careers Mastroianni has stolen 24 bases while being caught just 4 times, while Fuld totals 38 with 13 caught.  Edge Mastroianni, but in general I hate pinch running so maybe not having the faster guy is an overall positive?  Fuld balances the speed difference by being a better overall base running, at least according to UBR (Ultimate Base Running), a complicated way to try to quantify base running ability.  I don't know how much credence we can really lend to it, but for whatever it's worth Fuld's been goode for his career while Mastroianni has been simply average.
Defensively, and this is important since this is the center field back up spot, these guys are both quite good according to Fangraphs' defensive metrics, specifically UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).  Fuld has overall been better over his career, but Mastroianni jumps ahead if you look at it on a per 150 games basis.  They both have good range and a good arm, and neither make many errors.  Call it a tie.

I'll take the swap.  They're pretty much dead even in most things except Fuld is better with the stick, and since their role is going to mainly be coming off the bench I'd rather have a better hitter.  Mastroianni is four years younger than Fuld, which would be a selling point in some cases, but not here.  Reality is these guys are non-prospects, so age doesn't really matter.  They're both better than Alex Presley, anyway.

Now you have the answer to this pressing topic that I'm pretty sure most Twins fans weren't even aware of.  I'm generous like that.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Is Kyle Gibson like, good?

Kyle Gibson had the pedigree of a star after constantly making top prospect lists throughout his minor league career, and not just for the Twins, but for the entire league.  He had the track record with some very good minor league seasons, including 2013 before he was called up.  Then he finally made his debut last June and looked very good against Kansas City and suddenly the sky was the limit, but that was where the good feelings stopped.  In ten starts he compiled a ghastly 6.53 ERA with a drastic drop in his K/9 and way too high of a line drive rate.  There were positive signs - his xFIP was a run and a half better than his ERA, his BABIP was unsustainably high, and his HR/FB probably was too.  But I was a little bit worried.

This season he's been dazzling, winning all three of his starts on his way to a sparkling 0.93 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.  In those three games he's totaled 19.1 innings pitched and allowed a mere 12 hits, although just 10 strikeouts versus 9 walks is a bit troubling.  Terrible last year, great this year, which begs the question, Is Kyle Gibson like, good?

The first place to look is always BABIP, and just as he was super lucky last year, he's been very lucky this year with his BABIP at .211 (it was .350 last season).  He's also stranded 90.5% of his base runners, a completely ridiculous number, and given up 0 home runs despite 33% of his balls in play being hit in the air - another number that simply won't hold up.  Perhaps the scariest part is his strikeouts and walks.  After being a big-time strikeout pitcher throughout the minors, and even being respectable in that regard post his surgery, that part of his game has completely gone away in the majors.  He was poor last year at just 5.12 K/9, and has taken that down another notch to 4.68 this season.  Gross.  His walks, never a problem in the minors, have also taken a turn for the worse, from 3.53 per 9 last year to a positively Bedard-ian 4.19 this season.

That makes his K/BB ratio 1.45 last year and 1.1 this season - both numbers would rank dead last in the majors last season.  Worse than notorious soft-tossing nancies Scott Diamond, Barry Zito, Trevor Cahill, Joe Saunders, Jeremy Guthrie, Mike Pelfrey, and Jason Hammel - these are not guys you want to mentioned with in pretty much any scenario.  I don't know if this is something physical still going on or if it's the "Twins Way" once again screwing up someone's natural talents, but his fastball has fallen from an average of 92.1mph last season to 90.8 mph this year, a fairly alarming drop.  He's also not getting batters to chase balls out of the zone and not missing many bats when he does throw strikes.  None of this is good.

That's not to say there aren't some positives here.  Part of the reason he's had success this year is he's been able to drastically reduce his line drive rate.  It was a slightly below average 21.3% last season, and it's been slashed all the way down to 10.5% this season, 4th in the majors (and a number that would easily have been #1 last season).  The best part is those line drives from last year are becoming ground balls (+7.4%) and pop-ups (+9.0%), the easiest ways to get dudes out.  Based on his batted ball percentage his ERA should be around 2.75, which shows that although Gibson has been extremely lucky this season that doesn't necessarily rule out that he could still be a very good pitcher.

Right now Gibson looks like yet another Twins' pitch-to-contact guy who has gotten extremely lucky this year.  He's definitely taken some strides forward from last season, but he isn't really showing that high end ceiling he was projected to have.  You simply cannot be a top line pitcher with those kind of K numbers.  If he can rediscover his old ability to get whiffs to somewhere in the 6 per 9 inning area he could maybe be a #3 pitcher, but as it stands right now he's looking like no more than a 4-5.  Dammit.  This is really not how I was hoping this investigation would turn out.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is Chris Colabello like, good?

I've been getting a lot of shit lately because I haven't written anything Twins related.  Honestly between the one million day games and my two completely insane children I haven't gotten to see that much.  I have seen enough to finally make a post, and why not start with American League RBI leader Chris Colabello?

First off history is generally against him given that not many players don't crack the bigs until they're 29 years old and then go on to be stars.  He also struck out 32% of the time last season (in 181 plate appearances) which would put him somewhere near the all-time strikeout record if it held up for a full season).  When he did put the ball in play, he popped it up 17.4% of the time, a mark which would have been fourth worst in baseball.  In short, Colabello was a really shitty hitter last season.

The Twins were determined to bring him back this year because he had a tremendous 2013 in AAA (.352/.427/.639) and frankly they didn't have a lot of other options unless you still foolishly believe in Chris Parmelee.  So far he's rewarded them by hitting .333/.379/.519 with good power (6 doubles, 1 HR) and is leading the AL with 16 RBI.  Gaudy numbers, to be sure, and quite the turnaround from last season.  The question is, is Chris Colabello like, good?

Two major red flags right off the nerd stat bat - his walk % and his BABIP.  Last season Colabello walked in a quite good 11.0% of his plate appearances.  That would have ranked him in a tie for 29th in the majors last season.  That was one of the only signs for optimism last season with Colabello, and it's completely gone away this year with him walking in just 3.8% of his plate appearances.  Usually when a batter makes a leap you see that move in the opposite direction.  He somehow went from a patient hitter to someone who walks at a Delmon Young level (they have the exact same walk rate).  The other red flag is that his BABIP is .400 this season, a completely unsustainable number.  Things do not look good so far for young Mr. Colabello.

There are, however, some positives.  Most namely he's making more and better contact.  His K rate has dropped from that ugly 32% to a more acceptable 25% - manageable if you're producing offensively - helped by him making contact 70% of the time when he swings this year compared to 65% last year, and more importantly making contact 81% on swings on balls in the strike zone compared to 73% last season.  With that contact he's hitting more line drives (19% vs. 14%) and has yet to hit a single infield pop-up this year after doing it like it was his job last season.

So the real truth lies somewhere in between 2013 Chris Colabello and 2014 Chris Colabello.  He's not a worse hitter than Nick Punto, but he's not an all-star either, which I suppose gives you a pretty wide range of outcomes but that's the difference between the two Colabellos.  He'll probably regress and end up putting up something like .275/.320/.450 with low double digit home runs and an overinflated sense of worth when he finishes with 90-100 RBI.  With his subpar defense he'll probably hover around replacement level for his career, and having to play 1B or a corner outfield spot without supplying the high level offense those premium offensive positions usually bring is a big negative.

Basically he's a capable bat of the bench.  Who will end up starting 150+ games for the Twins.  That says a whole lot.

Coming Monday:  Is Kyle Gibson like, good?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Welcome Aboard, Gaston Diedhiou!

In a move that seemingly nobody saw coming, the Gophers received a commitment from Gaston Diedhiou for 2014, and there is pretty much zero info out there about this guy.  Most of the recruiting sites didn't even have a page for him until he signed.  Here's what we know:

-  He's 6-9, 225 lbs (maybe, but listed anywhere from 206-240) with a long wingspan over seven feet.  He fits a need at PF, specifically a physical power forward, and hopefully he can be a rim protecting center when Eliason and Walker move on as well.  If he can play.

-  He's from Senegal and played at the Canarias Basketball Academy in Spain last season.  He's the fifth player from there in this class to sign with a D-I program (Maryland, Louisville, Pitt, and UC-Riverside got the others) so they at least seem to put out decent talent.  They've had 15 other guys sign with D-1 programs the last four years, but the best of the list is Boris Bojanovsky at Florida State.

-  He will be 21 when he starts his career.  That's right, a 21-year old freshman.

-  It's irresistible to compare him to Gorgui Dieng, given their similarities and the Pitino connection.  This kid is not Dieng.  He may become him, but he's not him at this point at all.

Given that there aren't any scouting reports out there about him all you can do is watch a couple of youtube videos and I'm cautiously optimistic here.  Keeping in mind that the level of competition looked rather sub-par and that this was a highlight video with the whole point being to showcase the best of his game, Diedhiou showed a few nice things. 

He's definitely big and athletic, and he looks strong, although we'll see how that translates to the Big Ten.  He appears to fundamentally understand rebounding and has good instincts, his free throw form and results look good, and they even showed him hitting a couple mid-range jumpers.  He's comfortable putting the ball on the floor from the top of the key to get to the rim, and looks comfortable in the post going to his right either for a lay up if he can get around his man or a smooth looking jump hook.  He only went left from the block once in the video, so that's likely something he'll need to work on.

You will hear him called a project, and maybe rightfully so, but he looked more polished in that video than I was expecting, and as a 20-year old he should be.  Again, level of competition, highlight video and all those caveats but I was impressed.  Hopefully I don't end up looking like an idiot.  I'm getting kind of tired of that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Season's Over

I guess I haven't posted in a while and you've probably been sad about it and cried a lot.  For that I suppose I'm sorry.  I've been busy and tired and quite lazy. 

So late congratulations to the Gophers on winning the NIT.  It sucks to be in the NIT, but if you get stuck there you might as well win the damn thing.  No, this is not better than a loss in the First Four as far as being a fan or program-wise, but hey, a bunch of kids worked their asses off, got to spend some time in the NYC, and won a championship for themselves.  Awesome for them, and although I doubt it helps recruiting it probably doesn't hurt to play two games in MSG on ESPN.  Great seeing Austin Hollins win MVP or MOP or whatever too after playing great, especially because somewhere around early mid-season some of the looney tune fans around here (gopherhole) were calling for him to be benched.  Because they're super rational you see.

Meanwhile Joey King reminded us that off the bench scoring guy is probably his upside, not his downside, and Dre Hollins told us the reason he didn't look healthy the second half of the year was because he wasn't healthy the second half of the year. Malik Smith managed to hit a couple of shots to close out his career, Oto Osenieks came back for an encore, and Maverick still fell down a lot.  Mo and Elliott continued to look like two halves of an excellent player, and DeAndre Mathieu looked like a contender for Big 10 Player of the Year next season.  Fun end to the year, even if I only watched 1.5 games of the entire NIT.  Sorry.

So close the books on 2013-2014, and I'd probably give the season a B.  I didn't expect this team to make the NCAA Tournament and they came awfully damn close, then closed with a strong run through the NIT.  It pains me to think that it's likely they were 1 win away from an NCAA bid and that the win could have come at any time, including at home against shitty Illinois.  Of course, it's also possible that even with that win they could have gotten snubbed which would really sting.  Good season based on preseason expectations, but slightly poor season based on mid-season feelings.  Sounds like a B.

Now we move on to Pitino Year 2.  It's a pretty solid roster.  The guards should be outstanding with Dre Hollins (hopefully healthy) and Mathieu forming one of the better back courts in the conference, if not the country and likely, I think, solid back-ups in Daquein McNeil who looked pretty good as a freshman and will be a year older and freshman Nate Mason.  Losing both true 3s in Austin Hollins and Malik Smith will sting, but JuCo swingman Carlos Morris can hopefully fill those shoes.  King and Charles Buggs are the returning PF, but freshman Josh Martin already has a Big 10 body so should be able to give minutes, if nothing else, and hopefully more.  Center will be the same two headed monster but with another year stronger, wiser, and hopefully better.

Plenty of questions and holes, but that describes most teams at this point, and having your starting back court and center position rock solid is a good start.  Plus the Gophers have three open scholarships for next season right now.  One of them is supposed to be filled by Djuan Piper, according to the rumors, and it was supposed to happen tonight.  It sounds like his decision has been pushed to tomorrow (Thursday) and according to the rumors it's either because of academic issues or second thoughts.  Neither is good. He's ranked #147 by 247sports now and is a damn sight better than anything else the Gophers are going to pluck from the high school ranks this late - Spring recruiting can get rough (Mav -> hi!) and Piper and Bakary Konate, who I need to write up at some point, look like about it.

Of course, the great thing about the Gophers' position is they have space and they have needs, and with the transfer happy NCAA culture these days (which I enjoy) a graduate transfer PF or shooter guy would make a whole ton of sense for both parties.  A lot of names are starting to surface and there are a lot more sure to come, not to mention non-grad transfers who could hope to get waivers or just sit a year before playing.  The Gophers have a lot of flexibility with the roster for next season, and there's no way they're done yet.  This should be fun.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gophers 67, Florida State 64

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.