Before Minnesota plays their NIT semi-final game, BTP got a chance to sit down with the Daily Gopher (SBNation's Minnesota site) to chat about all things Minnesota. The Gophers have been under the radar as an NIT team, but have put together 3 wins and are sitting in New York City. It should be an exciting game on Tuesday. Here is the full extent of our discussion:
Big Ten Powerhouse - Minnesota was undoubtedly disappointed when they ended up in the NIT, but the team has responded well and are now in New York. Do you think there was any hangover after missing the NCAA Tournament?
The Daily Gopher - No, I do not think there is any real hangover at this point. Maybe early on you will see that but after three games in the NIT I think they have shown that they are here to play.
BTP - One of the big surprises lately has been Joey King, who has put together some big games. Talk a little bit about what he brings to the team.
DG - Joey is a pretty decent shooter when open and has really improved his contributions on defense. His feet are not the quickest, he won't over-power another PF but he understands his role and has taken advantage of times when he is in an advantageous match-up. This game against a big and athletic Florida State frontline is going to be a challenge for him.
BTP - What has been the fan reaction to the NIT run? Are fans genuinely excited and interested?
DG - I think people are pleased with the run but have appropriate perspective on it's significance. Winning the three games they have won is a nice bonus to the season, a trip to Manhattan for the team is exciting for them and an opportunity to win a couple more and win the tournament is a nice confidence booster heading into next season.
BTP - What is the most important matchup going to be on Tuesday night?
DG - For Minnesota it will be Deandre Mathieu against what I assume will be Devon Bookert. If Mathieu is playing well, getting deep into the lane and not turning the ball over I think we'll be OK. Others will point to the frontcourt match-ups as key, and they'll be important, but if Mathieu is playing at a high level, the Gopher offense also plays at a high level.
BTP - On Tuesday, the game is tied with 10 seconds left. What play are the Gophers running to try and score?
DG - They'll run a pick-n-roll for Mathieu with either (or both) Hollins as shooting options should the defense collapse.
BTP - What do you think the story of this season will be for Minnesota?
DG - The story is that Richard Pitino took a team who lost a lot of production from a year, particular along the frontcourt, and he did a good job of getting the most out of what he had. This team wasn't expected to be in the NCAA Tournament conversation but they were there till the end, upset some good teams at home along the way and then re-grouped to have some success in the NIT.
Thanks again to the Daily Gopher and specifically Gopher Nation for answering our questions before Tuesday's game.