Found March 25, 2013 on
Fox Sports North:
A season filled with so much potential fell short of the Sweet Sixteen for the University of Minnesota men's basketball team. The Gophers, once the No. 8 team in the country, bowed out of the NCAA tournament on Sunday after a 78-64 loss to No. 3 seed Florida.
So ends what has been a rollercoaster ride for coach Tubby Smith and his Gophers this season. There were many highs along the way -- a 15-1 start, a win over then-No. 1 Indiana, and Friday's first-round rout of sixth-seeded UCLA -- but there were also many lows. The lows included a stretch of 11 losses in 16 games to finish out the season, including road losses to Nebraska and Purdue. There was also the early exit from the Big Ten Tournament after losing to Illinois in the first round.
And finally, Sunday's double-digit loss to the Gators ended the up-and-down season on a low note. It didn't help the 11th-seeded Gophers that Florida shot 56.8 percent from the field and 10-of-20 from 3-point range. While Minnesota showed some fight in the second half, the deficit was too much for Smith's team to overcome.
The opening-round win two days earlier was Smith's first NCAA tournament win in his six seasons at Minnesota. Now that this year is over, there will surely be questions and speculation as to whether Sunday's game was his last as the Gophers coach. As Minnesota faded late in the season there were plenty of fans calling for a changing of the guard. Those fans seemed frustrated not only with Smith's in-game coaching ability, but also the fact that many of his players fail to progress throughout their careers.
Those who argue the case against Smith will surely note the way his team finished the 2012-13 season, fading from a Big Ten title contender to a No. 9 seed in the conference tournament. Of course, there is also the issue of his contract buyout, which would cost the university 2.5 million. Smith signed a contract extension in July that is supposed to keep him around through the 2016-17 season, but of course there are no guarantees in college basketball.
Regardless of whether or not Smith is back, an examination of the players leaving and those returning can give a sense as to what to expect from Minnesota next year. The Gophers lose a senior leader in Trevor Mbakwe, who finished his sixth season of NCAA eligibility this year. The St. Paul native led the Big Ten in rebounding this season, just like he did during his junior year. The 24-year-old Mbakwe battled his way back from a torn ACL last season (as well as yet another off-the-court incident) to once again become an impact player for the Gophers.
Also gone is Rodney Williams, an athletic forward who dazzled fans with his high-flying dunks during his Gophers career. But Williams never developed a consistent jump shot, which would have made him a more complete player. Still, he was the team's second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer.
As for what the Gophers bring back next year, the two biggest pieces will be the Hollinses -- sophomore Andre Hollins and junior Austin Hollins. In Sunday's game against Florida, it was Andre Hollins almost single-handedly bringing Minnesota back into the game with his 25-point effort (including 6-of-10 from downtown). Hollins was the catalyst in the Gophers' win over UCLA as the sophomore from Memphis scored a game-high 28 points. With Mbakwe and Williams gone, there's a good chance Andre Hollins could be the focal point of Minnesota's offense next season.
Austin Hollins has also developed into a scoring threat for the Gophers, although he didn't score as consistently as Andre Hollins. The junior forward finished second on the team in scoring and is Minnesota's best perimeter defender.
After the Hollinses, the Gophers will have several question marks entering next season. Can Joe Coleman develop a consistent offensive game? What, if anything, can 6-foot-10 Mo Walker bring as an inside presence? Will freshman Wally Ellenson become the player Minnesota was hoping he would -- an athletically gifted player who also has range -- as a sophomore?
Perhaps the biggest question facing Minnesota this offseason: will Smith be the coach next year? He and UCLA coach Ben Howland were both on the hot seat before their respective schools met in the first round Friday. Howland lost not only the game but also his job, as he was fired on Sunday.
Unlike Howland, Smith won a tournament game to extend his season and possibly his career. But will that on victory be enough for him to save his job? The answer to that question will close the book on what has been a wild ride for the Gophers.
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BEST OF MAXIM
A truly rewarding journey isn't easy. There are wrong turns, detours, and delays. The college basketball season is 30 games long, and the Golden Gophers got lost along the way, and more than once looked like they wanted to give up and go home. Instead, they'll be playing to go to the teams first Sweet 16 (that counts) since 1989. In basketball as in life, without negatives...
It appears that Tubby Smith did need a trip to the Sweet 16 to keep his job. His team lost in the round of 32, and now Tubby Smith has lost his job according to Jeff Goodman.
Minnesota fired Tubby Smith on Monday, cutting ties with the veteran coach one day after the Golden Gophers lost to Florida in the NCAA tournament.
Athletics director Norwood Teague announced the decision Monday and said it was time for a ''fresh set of eyes'' on the program.
Smith was 124-81 (.610) in six seasons at Minnesota, helping to bring the program back...
We explored the situation at Minnesota this morning on The B1G Time Podcast, however just hours after recording it's now being reported by CBSSports.com that Tubby Smith is being let go as head coach at the University of Minnesota. This comes off the heels of a season that saw the Gophers make the NCAA tournament and win a game before bowing out to Florida in the 3rd...
Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports is reporting that Minnesota men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith has been fired.
Smith coached the Golden Gophers for six seasons, but didn’t earn his first NCAA win with the program until this year. Minnesota received an 11-seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and although the Gophers were able to defeat 6-seed UCLA in the second round...
University of Minnesota Director of Athletics Norwood Teague announced minutes ago that Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith has been dismissed. A formal press conference will be held in about an hour. The Golden Gophers upset UCLA in an #11 seed over #6 game in the NCAA Tournament Friday night in Austin, TX. However, after winning in convincing fashion, Tubby Smith lost in convincing...
When Rick Pitino left Kentucky for the NBA’s Boston Celtics, Orlando “Tubby” Smith was hired in his place for the 1997-98 season. In his first year, he lead the ‘Cats back to the NCAA Championship game and defeated the late Rick Majerus’ Utah Utes 78-69. The championship run included a comeback wins over Duke, Stanford, and Utah on the way to Kentucky’s 7th National Championship...
Andre Hollins scored 28 points and Minnesota rolled past punchless UCLA 83-63 on Friday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament, a game that could be Bruins freshman Shabazz Muhammad's last in college and coach Ben Howland's final one leading the program.
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Many jumped on the Minnesota bandwagon for the Gophers' first game of the NCAA tournament. The Bruins were without their second-leading scorer and lacked depth. While the Gophers limped into the tournament as an 11 seed, they were still favored to win Friday...
Ben Howland brought his UCLA team to the NCAA tournament with a target on his back that only got bigger after an uninspired 20-point loss that sent the Bruins packing - once again - with an early-round exit.
By the time he gets back to Los Angeles, the howling for his job just might reach a fever pitch.
Andre Hollins scored 28 points and Minnesota rolled past punchless UCLA 83...
I was excited for Friday’s game against UCLA for plenty of reasons. Of course, it was the fact that the Gophers were in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. They were playing on college basketball’s biggest stage with a chance to redeem a season that fell well short of expectations once [...]