In Richard Pitino's first season as coach at Minnesota the program flashed occasional signs of brilliance but couldn't consistently win enough games and had to settle for a trip to the NIT.
The postseason experienced turned out to be a positive one as the Gophers won all five games to become the 2014 NIT Champions. The journey to the title was definitely a challenge, with all games being decided by single digits, the semi-final game versus Florida State going to overtime and both games in New York being decided by a total of four points.
Nonetheless, people tend to talk about the NIT and how it can be a launch board for success later on as it's a valuable way to gain some postseason experience. So let's take a look at what the teams in the Big Ten have done to follow up their NIT title runs in the past:
|Year||School||Record Next Season||Postseason Result|
|2008||Ohio State||22-11||Lost First Round|
|1998||Minnesota*||17-11||Lost First Round|
|1997||Michigan*||25-9||Lost Second Round|
|1993||Minnesota||22-13||Lost Second Round|
|1986||Ohio State||20-13||Lost Second Round|
|1984||Michigan||26-4||Lost Second Round|
|1979||Indiana||21-8||Lost Regional Semifinal|
|1972||Maryland||23-7||Lost Regional Final|
* = Vacated
As you can see there's some good news for Minnesota as about 67% of the teams have found their way back into the NCAA Tournament the next season. On the other hand...no team has made it past the second round after winning the NIT since sometime before coach Richard Pitino was even born, with Indiana making it to the regional semifinal three years beforehand (interestingly enough they lost to Purdue, who they actually beat in the NIT Final the year prior).
It'll be interesting to see how Minnesota follows up last years NIT run. Their postseason run did add some postseason experience for guys like Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu (who saw two games in the NCAA Tournament in 2013), while it was actually Pitino's first experience with the post season in his second year as a head coach (first year at FIU he missed the postseason with a 18-14 record). I'd probably put more weight on the Gophers ability to win five games in a row that all came down to the wire, as well as knocking off two good programs in Florida State and SMU.
Either way, only time will tell if the Gophers use last springs run to launch them back into the NCAA Tournament this year. With a slew of guys returning and a young, talented head coach in Richard Pitino, one has to think that they will.