DeAndre Mathieu won’t use the NIT title for offseason motivation, he already had plenty of that

by Jace Frederick

DeAndre Mathieu didn't care what tournament the Gophers were playing in on Thursday night; they were champions.

"I'm just so excited right now," he said. 

Minnesota's NIT title run has excited the team and the fan base, not just about the current state of the team, but about what's to come.

The Gophers lose just three seniors from this year's roster. Yes, one was Austin Hollins, but still, Minnesota will return a lot of talent from a team that finished the 2013-14 campaign playing some of its best basketball of the season.

So what do the Gophers have to do now? Move forward, Mathieu said. This run was nice, but the point guard has bigger goals for the Gophers next season.

"We've got a lot of guys returning," Mathieu said. "We're going to hopefully all have a big summer and hopefully we can make a run in the big boy tournament (NCAAs) next year."

Mathieu has two missions for next season — strength and improving his jump shot. Though the Gophers floor general shot just a tick under 49 percent from deep, he only took 45 triple tries all season.

"I'm definitely going to get in the weight room and get a lot stronger," he said. "And I'm going to shoot a lot of jump shots so guys can't go underneath screens. It's just going to be a big summer for me, a really big summer."

Mathieu said the NIT title doesn't necessarily provide motivation for the offseason, he already had plenty of that after being excluded from every All-Big Ten team after the regular season.

"I was already motivated because of the Big Ten choosing and all that, how I didn't make any of the teams," he said. "This does a lot more for my confidence to win a championship with these guys and know we're all coming back."

Mathieu didn't have a true offseason under Pitino a year ago, as he didn't arrive on campus until he completed some academic work. If he can improve with a full summer of work, there's no telling what he could accomplish next season.