Well it's over. Any slim hope, any dream you may have had that the Gophers would go on a miracle run and get themselves on the NCAA bubble is now dead, and it probably was prior to this anyway. A loss to Northwestern, RPI #147, is a killer, especially at home. It's a bad enough loss that it may even have knocked them off the #1 seed line for the NIT, which granted barely matters but the one good thing about the NIT is the ability to see teams you normally wouldn't in person and that requires a high seed. Sure, nobody's exactly clamoring to watch Oregon or Boise State in person, but I enjoy it so shut up.
I'm not quite really even sure what to make of it. This year's team, though definitely flawed, had enough talent to finish the season in contention for an NCAA bid at a minimum, and clearly sail into NCAA lock status well before Selection Sunday if everything broke right. Unfortunately everything broke wrong. An 0-5 start to Big Ten play could easily have been a 4-1 start, however late game meltdowns put the team in a big hole. They valiantly clawed their way back and started to appear on the fringe of the bubble, culminating in a great win at Iowa that was probably their best game this season. Optimism abounded about their chances of knocking off Indiana in Bloomington, including Vegas who pegged the Gophers as just two point underdogs. Eighteen three pointers later that dream was dead, and fifteen more by Northwestern last night killed everything else.
It's tempting to delve into what went wrong with this season and find someone(s) to blame, but I just don't know. I think Richard Pitino and his staff made a lot of mistakes, but learning on the job in the Big Ten isn't going to be smooth sailing from Day 1. I think he's trying to coach the team like he learned at Louisville and Florida as if he has the same caliber of players, and he clearly doesn't. If he can translate his hard work recruiting into bringing in some of those same type of players his system and style will definitely work. If he can't get to that level of player, however, he'll need to adapt or die. Any defensive style that allows 33 made three-pointers over two straight games is clearly not working.
I don't know why, but DeAndre Mathieu took a huge step back this year, both in results and swagger. His aggressive style was what elevated this team last season, but this year he's been far more passive and when he did try to push it ended in disaster far too often. He's been playing better (1 turnover in the last five games) and along with Dre Hollins has really improved from early season struggles, but the team was too far behind to really make any kind of move and then came last night to shiv the rest of the season and pack up the corpse.
So I really don't know. Just a lost season. A horrible, terrible lost season. Next season, two starting guards and two centers leave, and it doesn't leave me optimistic. Though it would be awfully difficult to feel optimistic at all right now. Different coach, different players, same kind of results. Usually when the Gophers blow a game they should win by playing like morons I feel mostly rage. After last night it's mostly depression. That can't be a good sign. We move on. Hey, catchers and pitchers have reported!