Column: Borton’s seat is getting hot, ya feel me?

Samuel Gordon

On March 22, 2013, the No. 11-seeded Gophers men’s basketball team upset sixth-seeded UCLA in its first game of the NCAA tournament.

It was former head men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith’s first NCAA tournament win with the Gophers.

And he was handed a pink slip after a loss to Florida in the Round of 32, as athletics director Norwood Teague cited the need for “a fresh set of eyes” on the program.

Now, it’s Jan. 28.

It’s been four years since Minnesota’s women’s basketball team qualified for an NCAA tournament.

And after Sunday’s 30-point loss to Penn State, the Gophers are 2-5 in the Big Ten with nine conference games left — plus the Big Ten tournament.

This season’s NCAA tournament hopes — though not completely dashed — are fading fast as the loss column racks up more tallies.

And mind you, this is a team that boasts the best player in the conference in star guard Rachel Banham, and the best freshman in the conference in center Amanda Zahui B.

This year’s squad also returned four other players that played significant minutes last season, including three starters.

The talent is in place. That’s not a question.

What should be called into question is the set of eyes that has overseen the program for the last decade — head coach Pam Borton.

Borton took over the program after the 2001-02 season, after head coach Brenda Frese bounced for the head coaching position at Maryland.

In turn, Borton inherited a roster that included WNBA players Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville.

Thus, Borton enjoyed success right out of the gate. Minnesota advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2003 and made the Final Four in 2004.

Fans packed the Barn to watch their Gophers and home games regularly drew more than 9,000 spectators. In Borton’s first four seasons as head coach, Minnesota ranked in the top 10 nationally in attendance.

The fan base is passionate when the product is good. But lately, the product has been lacking, and it’s time to wonder if Borton is getting the most out of her teams.

And perhaps the bigger questions are: What are the expectations? And why are they so low?

It’s understandable why the men’s expectations are high, but they shouldn’t be that much higher than those on the women’s end.

If winning an NCAA tournament game wasn’t enough to save Tubby’s job, then missing the NCAA tournament shouldn’t be enough for Borton to keep hers.

That said, there’s still time for Borton to turn this season around. There is only one ranked opponent left on the schedule and a talented roster in place. It’s certainly possible.

In order for that to happen, though, something has to change this season.

Or else it might next season.

Ya feel me?