The pressure of playing inside Madison Square Garden can be insurmountable for some players. For others, it’s an opportunity to prove their worth. And when freshman guard Nate Mason played in one of basketball’s great cathedrals, the rookie performed with a poise that seemed beyond his years. Everyone who watched the Gophers play during the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York City over Thanksgiving weekend saw Mason continue to play with the confidence and intelligence required for every guard in Division I college basketball.
Minnesota entered Friday night’s matchup against Indiana looking to solidify one of 64 spots in the NCAA tournament. “I thought we played some pretty clean volleyball,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said Friday after the Gophers won 25-18, 25-17, 25-17. “[It’s] nice to finish the regular season with a win, and hopefully it’s enough to get us into the tournament.” But it wasn’t. The NCAA selection committee didn’t pick the Gophers to play in the championship tournament.
It seemed all too ironic that on the day the Gophers faced off against one of the NCAA’s most potent rushing attacks, Minnesota showed just how putrid its passing offense could be. The Gophers completed only five of 18 passing attempts and mustered just 95 yards through the air. Against a Wisconsin team that has made Minnesota its personal punching bag for 11 consecutive seasons, that sort of performance wasn’t strong enough to overcome the Badgers.
Redshirt senior Mo Walker made his fourth consecutive start on Saturday as the Gophers faced off against Maryland-Baltimore County. The Canadian center has started every game this season, even though the decision in the first game might have been a head-scratcher for some, as it left last year’s starting center Elliott Eliason sitting on the bench. But after four solid performances by Walker, it seems as though head coach Richard Pitino made the right choice. Walker put up 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked five shots in the victory over UMBC.
Senior running back David Cobb could only watch from the sidelines as Donnell Kirkwood pushed through the Nebraska defense on his way to a first down in the game’s closing minutes. That rush ultimately sealed the game for Minnesota and sends them to Madison, Wis., next week with the opportunity to reach to its first Big Ten championship game. The fact that Minnesota came back to defeat the Cornhuskers in the second half despite being without Cobb in the backfield because of an injury is an impressive accomplishment.
Only 3.3 percent of all high school boys basketball players continue playing the sport at any level in college, according to a 2013 NCAA report. The chance to play in a Division I program is even smaller. But from 2007 to 2010, Al Nolen played at Minnesota and was part of that select group. Because playing the sport at such a high level remains an opportunity afforded to few, Nolen now focuses his time on refining the skills of young basketball players.
De’Vondre Campbell appeared unemotional and unfazed when he spoke to reporters following the Gophers’ 31-24 loss to Ohio State. The redshirt junior linebacker didn’t blink or stutter when he said Minnesota would see the Buckeyes again this season. The next time that rematch could take place would be at the Big Ten championship game, and that’s exactly what Campbell alluded to. It would be easy for doubters to point to the Gophers’ three losses on the season and claim Campbell’s prediction to be inconceivable.
When the Gophers men’s basketball squad steps onto the court inside the Coast Guard’s Air Station Borinquen on Friday night, the team faces the daunting task of stopping No. 8 Louisville’s potent offense. Louisville’s attack ranked eighth in the NCAA last season and produced more than 82 points per contest. This could be trouble for Minnesota, which has looked inconsistent defensively in both its intrasquad scrimmage and in its exhibition contest.
The Gophers’ aerial assault looked downright dangerous against Iowa in a game that honored military veterans nationwide. On the day that quarterback Mitch Leidner threw a new career-high in touchdown passes, perhaps no player in the air attack looked more impressive than the field general himself. The redshirt sophomore helped orchestrate a Minnesota offense that ran over a reeling Hawkeyes defense on its way to a 51-14 victory.
Just two months into his first semester at the University of Minnesota, freshman Felix Corwin holds the title of Big Ten indoor champion. Corwin, who didn’t lose a set during the entire tournament, faced off against fellow freshman and teammate Matic Spec in the championship match. Corwin is the first men’s tennis player to win the title since 2003.
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