Considered a favorite in the conference when the year began, the Golden Gophers drifted off into mediocrity in the Big Ten.
Doubts reared their ugly head. Some wanted Tubby Smith out the door.
Yet, in its first NCAA tournament game against UCLA, Minnesota looked like a contender again. The Golden Gophers bruised the Bruins 83-63, although you have to wonder how inspired UCLA really was for this game.
Andre Hollins was the difference maker. He was flat out sensational as he poured in 28 points on a night when it seemed like Minnesota was clicking on all cylinders offensively.
”My teammates believe in me, they know I can hit the shots,” Hollins said in a post-game press conference. “Tonight I hit the shots.”
Austin Hollins added 16 points and the Golden Gophers shot 50 percent from the field as a team.
Not bad for a team that stumbled through the Big Ten after an impressive 15-1 start. Minnesota lost 11 of its final 16 games leading up to the tourney.
Smith’s job is probably safe. He did get the Golden Gophers back to the NCAA tourney and they at least won a game.
I’m not sure if Minnesota is good enough to beat Florida in the next round, but at least for one night, the doubts were erased and the Golden Gophers looked like a good team again.
Brian Lester is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993.