The Gopher basketball team saw its season end against Xavier on Friday in the NCAA Tournament in a familiar form as many other losses during the 2009-10 season. The team looked strong early on but ultimately struggled shooting the basketball in losing 65-54 in first round action.
Minnesota shot just 31% from the floor for the game, including an anemic 7-26 from three-point territory. The Musketeers didn't shoot much better (34% for the game), but shot 56% from the floor in the second half, compared to just 26% for the Gophers.
Senior Lawrence Westbrook led the team in scoring with 19 points in his final game in maroon and gold, but he only achieved four points in the second half. He was the only Gopher to reach double-figures for the game. Paul Carter grabbed a team-leading nine boards for the Gophers, who were out-rebounded by Xavier 50-41 for the game.
So, in a season marked by inconsistency, the Gophers could not follow-up its inspiring run in the Big Ten Tournament with any post-season victories, meaning the drought continues. Minnesota has not won an "official" NCAA Tournament game since 1990, since the wins of the 1997 Final Four team were wiped from the official NCAA records. The Gophers finished 21-14 on the season, which was viewed by many as being optimistic from the outset. However, off-court issues marred this club, and they struggled for an identity in Big Ten play. Still, coach Tubby Smith did lead his team to the big dance for the second-consecutive season, the first time that has happened since Clem Haskins's tenure. Despite the good play in the Big Ten Tourney, Gopher fans have to be disappointed with the ending to this season and wonder what would have happened if Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe would have played at all this season.
Of course, "what if" questions are becoming commonplace in the athletics department at the University of Minnesota.....
BTW - I'm not doing an official post-mortem of the Gopher season, since I believe I have done this on many different occasions down the stretch when things started taking a turn for the worst. Please check in here for continued coverage of the NCAA Tournament - hockey, that is.