The NIT can lead to bigger things

Over the years, I remember a lot of solid post-seasons by the Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball team.

One that I remember fondly is one that probably most people don’t recollect as easily.

Following the 1993 season, Minnesota was left out of the NCAA Tournament, and was relegated to the NIT. While making the NCAA bracket is always the goal, the NIT that year was entertaining and memorable.

The Gophers played five games, starting with a 74-66 victory over Florida. Minnesota ended up facing major conference teams in each of the five games, also beating Oklahoma, USC and Providence before facing Georgetown in the finals at Madison Square Garden.

It was a five-game stretch over a three-week period that was entertaining to watch, as a young Gophers squad defeated the Hoyas 62-61 to win the NIT championship. It was a team led by Voshon Lenard and helped the squad get ready for 1993-94, when it made the NCAA Tournament and won a game before losing to Louisville (this season was later vacated due to NCAA violations).

This year’s Minnesota team is following a similar path to that 1993 NIT team, and has advanced to the NIT semifinals. Watching the Gophers win the first three games of this tournament has been enjoyable. Add in two more wins, and this will again be a memorable post-season for the U of M that could lead to bigger things next season.

Sure, the NCAA Tourney is the biggest deal. But winning an NIT championship has plenty of importance, no matter what the local radio talk show hosts proclaim.