Minnesota defeated SMU 65-63 to win the NIT Championship. Austin Hollins led the Gophers with 19 points and Andre Hollins made critical free throws late to seal the game. It is Minnesota's second official NIT Championship.
I would argue that tonight's game was one of the best college basketball games this season. This game had everything. SMU played great defense and made several runs. Austin Hollins once again led the team on offense and defense. Deandre Mathieu showed how good of a point guard he is. Andre Hollins once again looked like himself. Rick Pitino was coaching behind Richard Pitino in the final seconds. The Gophers fouled at the end when they were up three. Fran Fraschilla called Bob Knight Dad. MALIK MADE TWO THREES!
UStreet how do you feel right now? Like this guy Internet. Like this guy.
The Four Factors are below:
Each team won two of the four factors. SMU was a little better on offense, but Minnesota won the turnover battle and had a better eFG%. Turnovers were a major factor because it SMU's defense was as fearsome as I expected, and they forced the Gophers to take lots of long range shots. During the second half drought, Minnesota was unable to get the ball inside through penetration. What the turnovers allowed Minnesota to do was get the ball into transition and find a good shot before the Mustangs defense was set.
(If I was going to be negative) LALALALA CHAMPIONSHIP I'M NOT LISTENING (Minnesota's zone defense was not good. There was a lack of communication on the back line that led to multiple alley oop and back cut opportunities that SMU converted into easy points. I know that Pitino believes in the zone and I trust his in-game coaching, but the zone was ineffective. The bigs also needed to do a better job holding onto the ball).
The Austin Hollins NBA Audition Tape was in full swing tonight. Hollins was deservedly named the MOP of the tournament. Tonight he had 19 points on 8-12 shooting (3-6 from behind the arc) including the clutch 3 pointer at the end to seal the deal. Hollins also had 4 steals, two of which led to points in transition. He made every kind of shot in this game too. I truly hope that some NBA team will give him a look next year, but without a doubt Hollins is one of the best players to ever put on the Maroon and Gold.
Did Minnesota ever steal one in Deandre Mathieu? He is everything that a PG should be. Tonight he had 13 points, 7 assists to only 2 turnovers, and 2 steals. Mathieu instinctively knows when to insert himself in the offense and drive. He should draw more fouls next year because officials will have no excuse to pretend they don't know him. I'm really excited to see how much better he will be next year.
Malik Smith made shots. He also decided to take some silly ones. I don't care because he finally made some 3s. It's great that his career finished on a positive note.
Andre Hollins became Andre Hollins again. Sure he missed too many shots (5-15 from the field 1-7 from behind the arc), but he pulled out an absolutely filthy step back jumper and made clutch free throws at the end of the game. Hollins finished with 14 points, 2 assists, and a steal. He'll be healthy next year. Get excited everyone.
To get sentimental (most likely overly so) about a basketball game, I want to conclude my last recap of the year with this. Rick Pitino was interviewed by Grimm and in addition to being the best recruiter for the Gophers who isn't on the payroll had this to say about the team:
Not often do players play for the name on the front instead of the name on the back. Minnesota does.
Sports fandom, especially college fandom, is frequently silly, potentially morally bankrupt, and expensive. It's especially tough being a Gopher fan-if one can consider it tough to be part of an activity that requires almost no real effort and that one can quit at any time. As jimipig says so often in the comments, we want the players to bleed maroon and gold like we do.
Still, there in Pitino's words is the wonderful confirmation that sometimes we as fans aren't wrong. The feelings we have are shared by the team we cheer for. In the final analysis, that's really sports at its best. A meaningless game that two sides are going to fight tooth and nail to win for pride, and all the fans that made the ridiculous decision to care about the outcome.
All that said, I hope they're never in the NIT again and I'm positive Richard Pitino feels the same.
It's been fun covering this season and chatting with y'all in the comments. Seeing that there are a lot of crazy people like me that decided to pick the best colors on earth to cheer for is awfully fun.