Upset of Michigan State earns Gophers NIT bid

by Tim Klobuchar

The Gophers men’s basketball team got the NIT berth it hoped for and expected Sunday night.
Minnesota (15-15) will host Colorado State (20-8) at Williams Arena on Wednesday night. The tentative game time is 7:05 p.m.
The winner will play the winner of the Alabama-Birmingham (20-11) and Missouri (17-14) game. The site will be determined after the first-round games are completed.
The NIT takes teams not selected to the NCAA tournament, provided they have at least a .500 record. The Gophers were able to achieve that by virtue of their 76-73 upset over Michigan State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament Friday. Florida (14-14) is the only other not above .500 to make the NIT.
The Gophers lost their only chance at making the NCAA tournament when the lost to Michigan in the semifinals Saturday.
“That was our goal coming into this tournament — to get into some sort of playoffs,” Minnesota forward Miles Tarver said after the loss to Michigan. “We wanted the NCAA, but we’ll gladly settle for the NIT. We just want to keep playing.”
The Gophers join fellow Big Ten teams Iowa (20-10) and Penn State (15-12) in the NIT. Five of the conference’s teams made the NCAA tournament: Purdue (No. 2 seed in the West Regional), Michigan (No. 3 in the East), Michigan State (No. 4 in the East), Illinois (No. 5 in the West) and Indiana (No. 7 in the East).
Colorado State finished fourth in the Western Athletic Conference’s Mountain Division behind Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming. The Rams finished in the nation’s top 10 in both scoring defense and field goal percentage defense.
That the Gophers are playing any postseason at all is a bonus — Minnesota started 0-6 in the Big Ten, but finished by winning six of nine, including two of three in the Big Ten tournament.
“Anything is icing on the cake just to get this team rewarded for what they’ve been through,” Gophers coach Clem Haskins said. “That’s why I’ve worked so hard and put so much energy into putting us into position for postseason play.”
Minnesota’s last NIT appearance was in 1996, when it lost a second-round game at home to Tulane. The Gophers won the tournament in 1993.
Only season ticket holders will be able to order tickets for the first round game today and Tuesday. Remaining tickets will be put on sale to the general public Wednesday at 9 a.m. All seats are reserved and will cost $22.50 to the public and University staff, and $8.50 to University students.