Minnesota was basketball's biggest surprise last season. Now they’re just good.


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Nov 11, 2008
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per Ricky:

Richard Pitino had the type of season every coach on the hot seat dreams of last year: He captained college basketball’s biggest turnaround while silencing questions about his job security and elevating his program to legitimate top-25 status. Minnesota went from an eight-win team to a 24-win team overnight, making the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years.

Now Pitino’s mission is proving that last season’s upstart success is sustainable.

It helps that Pitino welcomes four starters back. Senior center Reggie Lynch might be the most important one. The Big Ten’s reigning defensive player of the year anchored a unit that finished No. 22 in the country in efficiency largely off the strength of his rim protection. Lynch denied 3.5 shots per game to post the second-best block rate in America.

The defense will again be the backbone of this team, but Pitino’s roster offers some intriguing pieces on offense, too. Shifty point guard Nate Mason is coming off a breakout junior season in which he averaged a team-high 15.5 points per game — while leaving plenty of room for improvement in terms of efficiency (37.6 percent from the field). 6’8 sophomore Amir Coffey should be one of the best wings in the Big Ten this season, while freshman point guard Isaiah Washington is set to provide some flair with his flashy ball handling and isolation scoring ability.

The Gophers haven’t been to the second weekend of the NCAA in 20 years, but this team has a real chance to do it. Pitino showed he can be one of the country’s brightest young coaches last season. Now he has to prove it was no fluke.


Go Gophers!!
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