The Golden Gophers were completely off the radar screen at the start of the season.
As far as the Big Ten was concerned, they looked like a ninth-place team because they appeared to be better than Purdue and Penn State. As far as the NCAA tournament was concerned, the odds were pretty good that head coach Dan Monson could scare up some tickets at any point he wanted, but he was not going to be taking his team there.
But even though the Gophers had little pedigree at the start of the season, they did what good teams do: they took their job seriously and they got better on a consistent basis.
As a result, Minnesota won 21 games during the year and earned a spot in the tournament. They will meet a very gritty Iowa State team in the first round Friday.
How will Monson's team contend with the Cyclones, a team that has soared in the second half of the season? They will try to attack with leading scorer Vincent Grier and the inside pounding of center Jeff Hagen.
Grier averages 18.1 ppg and became Monson's go-to guy. He is a natural scorer who can take the ball to the hoop or shoot from the outside. Hagen is a workman and a warrior who has been a steady force for the Gophers throughout his career and now he is being rewarded with an NCAA tournament berth.
This is a team with no pressure on it. Expectations have already been exceeded by their solid regular season, so the Gophers have a chance to come into the tournament and play free and loose. If they can do that, they actually have a good chance of advancing to the second round.
No Pressure On Gophers
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