Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.
Slumping to an 8-10 record in conference and with their season ending at the hands of rival Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Minnesota Golden Gophers' season came to a screeching halt at a record of 20-13 under the direction of first-year head coach Richard Pitino.
Going into Big Ten league play, things were trending up for Minnesota. Despite losing to both Syracuse and Arkansas in the Maui Invitational, those were the only two losses they suffered. The Golden Gophers picked up a good win against Florida State upon their return to the continental United States, and were 11-2 before the month of January.
After that, however, the wheels fell off. The Golden Gophers lost six of their first 10 conference games, including a triple-OT game against Purdue that was far from aesthetically pleasing. The two teams combined for 151 points in the 55 minutes played that evening in West Lafayette, Ind.
From there they simply could not turn it around, as the hole they dug themselves only grew larger. The Golden Gophers finished seventh in the conference, ahead of the likes of Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, Northwestern and Purdue.
The Golden Gophers took a large dip in offensive production from a season ago. After being 16th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency a year ago, Minnesota fell to 52nd even with the Division 1 average ascending by four points. The loss of Trevor Mbakwe could probably be one of the main reasons this dip in offensive play occurred.
Additionally, Andre Hollins' play tapered off a bit. After maintaining an eFG% of 52.7 percent and a 3PT FG% of 41.8 percent a year ago, Hollins shot an eFG% of 49.8 percent and a 3PT FG% of 38.5 percent.
The Gopher defense also fell by roughly five points to 100.5 points per 100 possessions allowed this past year. They struggled both inside and outside, being nearly average in both categories.
The Golden Gophers were led this season by DeAndre Mathieu. Second behind Hollins in points per game and first in assists per night, the Morehead State transfer was one of Minnesota's most significant contributors with a Poss% of 24.3. Additionally the point guard shot 50.8 percent inside and 45.7 percent from the three-point line, rounding out for a 50.2 FG%.
Going forward, the Gophers should feel disappointed with their efforts this season but Richard Pitino certainly did a decent job in his first year as head coach. This could merely be used as a stepping stone for next season and whatever may lie ahead, as Pitino could be one of the better young coaches in the conference right now.