Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 3/19/13
MINNEAPOLIS Trevor Mbakwe has NCAA tournament experience a whole minute of it. The same goes for fellow Gophers senior Rodney Williams, who was on the court for less than 60 seconds of Minnesota's game against Xavier in 2010. Those two combined minutes make up the entirety of the Gophers' NCAA tournament experience as they head into Friday's matchup with UCLA in the Round of 64. For Mbakwe, his brief moment under the bright lights of the big dance came in 2008 during his freshman season at Marquette. The St. Paul native didn't play at all in Marquette's first-round win against Kentucky, but got his chance one game later. The Golden Eagles were the No. 6 seed and faced No. 3 seed Stanford in the second round with a shot at the Sweet 16 on the line. That 2007-08 Marquette squad was led by players such as Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward, who are both now in the NBA. Mbakwe was one of 11 Golden Eagles players to step on the court against Stanford. He didn't take a shot, nor did he grab a rebound. He didn't find the stat sheet at all in his one minute of NCAA tournament playing time, which ended with an overtime loss to Brook Lopez and Stanford. Still, Mbakwe is hoping the lessons he learned by being a part of that tournament team can carry over to his Gophers squad several years later. "It was a great experience as a freshman," Mbakwe said. "It was a great run. Just as a freshman, that's huge just getting that experience, knowing what it takes, having veterans, knowing what it takes to win games, especially in key moments." Williams got an equally small taste of what it's like to play on college basketball's ultimate stage. As a freshman at Minnesota during the 2009-10 season, Williams was part of the 11th-seeded Gophers team that faced No. 6 Xavier in the first round. Just like Mbakwe a few years earlier, Williams didn't find the stat sheet. No points, no rebounds, not even a foul to show for his one minute of play. The Gophers lost 65-54 to Xavier and failed to make it out of the first round. If you blinked, you missed Williams' lone NCAA tournament experience to this point. Three years later, though, Williams has fond memories of his first and, until Friday, only trip to the big dance. "I remember it was a lot of fun," Williams said. "I just remember that whole practice when we had all the people watching us and all the media and all the stuff that comes along with it. It was definitely cool, no matter how much time you get out there. I think just the experience of being there period, it was a really fun time." Now as fellow seniors, Mbakwe and Williams factor to get far more than a minute each of playing time on Friday for 11th-seeded Minnesota against No. 6 UCLA. The Gophers duo will be expected to carry the load for Minnesota, just like they've done all season. Mbakwe, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after tearing his ACL last year, finished this season as the Big Ten's top rebounder, averaging 8.7 boards per game. He was instrumental in Minnesota's upset win over No. 1 Indiana, scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. In a tournament setting like this, the Gophers could use another big game from Mbakwe. But they'll also need him to stay out of foul trouble. In Minnesota's Big Ten tournament game against Illinois, Mbkawe picked up three fouls in the first half of the Gophers' loss to the Illini. That can't happen against UCLA. "Two fouls, there's nothing I can do about that. And Trevor can't play with three," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said Tuesday. "Once he gets his first, second foul, he's winding down defensively. That's a real problem for us, because then opposing teams just throw it inside on him, and he's going to back off." Williams was second on the Gophers in rebounding with 5.1 per game and was the team's third-leading scorer, averaging 10.3 points. While he was hampered by a shoulder injury late in the season, Williams said that's no longer a problem heading into the NCAA tournament. A year ago, Williams elevated his game in the postseason as the Gophers made a run in the NIT tournament. He scored 18 or more points in four of Minnesota's five tournament games en route to the NIT title game. Like Mbakwe, Williams hopes to play basketball at the next level. A solid NCAA tournament could certainly help his case. "I know the emotions that he must be feeling," Smith said of Williams. "He has opportunities beyond college basketball, so it's a chance for him to improve his stock, plus leave a legacy because he's had a pretty good career here." For both Mbakwe and Williams, their single minute of NCAA tournament play was one of the highlights of their respective college basketball careers. Now senior leaders, both have a chance to make their second trip to the big dance even more memorable. And it should last for longer than one minute. "This is every college basketball player's dream to get to the NCAA tournament. I'm just happy to be back," Williams said. "I just want to go out there and play as hard as I can. It's win or go home. You just want to go out there and give it your all, because it could be the last one." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
One Gotta Go: NFL Legends (and Jose Canseco!) Have No Love For Captain America
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Brandon Jennings takes swipe at Reggie Miller's career

Report: Kaepernick facing ‘uphill battle’ to make roster

Djokovic says ‘private issues’ cost him chance at grand slam

Colin Kaepernick on national anthem: 'I'll continue to sit'

Stephen Jones: Cowboys 'look forward' to starting Prescott

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Stanton has 'slim chance' of returning for final week?

Kubiak hinting that Siemian is favorite for Broncos' QB job?

John Harbaugh: NFL needs to make changes to preseason

Romo expected to miss 6-10 weeks with broken bone in back

Kaepernick explains why he is protesting national anthem

Dwyane Wade’s cousin shot and killed in Chicago

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

Heading into the homestretch: 2016 ROY favorites

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

One Gotta Go: NFL legends talking comedians is no joke

It's all about timing: The evolution of the clock in sports

Predicting the unpredictable: Your MTV VMAs rundown

10 great moments in the career of Roberto Duran

Marshall’s first impression of Fitzpatrick: ‘He was terrible’

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for fast food

What you need to know about the Champions League draw

Six worst quarterback situations in the NFL

Can the San Francisco Giants bust their teamwide slump?

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

Heading into the homestretch: 2016 ROY favorites

One Gotta Go: NFL legends talking comedians is no joke

It's all about timing: The evolution of the clock in sports

Predicting the unpredictable: Your MTV VMAs rundown

10 great moments in the career of Roberto Duran

The 20 best boxing movies of all time

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for fast food

What you need to know about the Champions League draw

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker