The seeding committee for the San Juan Shootout basketball tournament has selected the Gophers men’s team as the No. 1 seed for the 1996 event, which will take place in late November and early December.
The eight-team tournament has a strong field, so it’s an opportunity for Minnesota to increase its chances of getting an NCAA tournament bid in March. Six of the teams had winning records in 1995-96.
Last season, despite winning nine of the last 13 games, the Gophers were denied an NCAA tournament bid because of their poor start and weak record against teams ranked among the Associated Press’ Top 25.
Minnesota will be joined in the San Juan Shootout by the second seed, Clemson, and the third seed, Missouri, as the teams to beat.
The Gophers received their No. 1 seed on the basis of strength of returning letter winners, including all five starters and 10 of the top-11 scorers.
Although Clemson is working through injuries to veterans such as Iker Iturbe, Bill Harder and Merl Code, it received the second seed because of the overall ability of seven sophomores who got extensive playing time last season.
The rest of the field includes Florida, Creighton, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Delaware and Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, the fourth through eighth seeds respectively.
UPR-Mayaguez is making its first-ever appearance in the tournament and will face the Gophers in the opening round. Although Minnesota is expected to throttle the inexperienced Tarzans, the team from the islands will have the home-court advantage.
The Gophers played in the Great Alaska Shootout (Anchorage, Alaska) in 1994 and the Big Island Invitational (Hilo, Hawaii) in 1995. This year the shootout will feature a trip to Caguas, Puerto Rico.
The tournament will run from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 with the championship game taking place at 8 p.m.
— Matthew Cross