So that happened.
The Gophers defeated Florida State 67-64 in overtime to advance to the NIT Championship. They will play SMU on Thursday at 7pm EST for the Championship. In a game that was an absurdist comedy Andy Kaufman would have been proud of, Minnesota managed to find a way to win, or maybe not lose. Honestly, it's hard to tell which way is up and which way is down right now. The Four Factors are below.
Minnesota won two of the Four Factors: eFG% and TO%. With Florida State's length and size, Minnesota was forced to rely on the 3 extensively and was successful early on. An eFG under 50 is not great, but hey neither was this game. The Gophers also won the turnover battle, a major key given the number of one and done possessions on offense.
The Four Factors show that the Gophers played very good defense, particular because Elliott Eliason's injury forced Minnesota to play Joey King and Oto Osenieks at the 5. Minnesota held Florida State to under a point per possession, even though the Gophers were smaller at every position and in major foul trouble in the second half.
Mo Walker was the only center tonight and while he once again struggled offensively against a large front court, he hit six key free throws in overtime. Walker finished with 9 points (1-7 from the field), 6 rebounds, and one assist. He also played solid defense against the onslaught of Florida State bigs.
Supposedly Oto was injured and not able to play again the rest of the season because of a knee injury. Not only did he play tonight, he played tough. Osenieks finished with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block. He also tracked down an offensive rebound off a missed Walker free throw to give Minnesota a critical extra possession. For many reasons I would prefer Eliason to be back on Thursday, but it was good to know that Oto can still play and provide depth this season.
Austin Hollins continued his NBA audition with another solid game. Hollins had 17 points (7-11 from the field), and added 5 rebounds and the most ferocious block I've seen all season.
Dre Hollins still didn't make shots at a high clip, but was noticeably more aggressive tonight. He had 13 points with 5 coming from the foul line. Additionally, he had 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. I'd be thrilled if the scoring returned on Thursday, but I'm confident it will come back. What is very encouraging for next season is all the other ways Hollins contributes to the team even when his shot isn't fouling.
Can I get paid what Bob Knight gets paid to reminisce about games that happened years ago and have no relevance to current action? Truly an abysmal performance from the announcers. My personal favorite "You can't be serious" moment was when Bob Knight and Fran Fraschilla had an extended discussion of the time it takes for a ball to come back to earth after being thrown into the air. In case Knight reads this blog, I'd encourage him to check out this Wikipedia article on that very question.