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Big Ten 2017 Basketball Recaps: Minnesota Golden Gophers

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Minnesota vs Middle Tennessee State
We’re coming for you, bucky.
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

I get it. You’re confused. Minnesota is going 3rd from last, which must mean they finished 4th. It’s all some elaborate joke to mess with everyone’s head here on 4/20, right? Sure. Even the most optimistic, delusional Gopher fan here (me) predicted a 6-12 B1G run, and only one person I know predicted a “very good” season for the team. If I could take one moment: YOU WERE RIGHT, JAKE! YOU WERE RIGHT! Anyway, things went kinda well for Minnesota this past season.

What Went Right?

Lots of things. The Gophers started the year 12-1 by tearing through everything that wasn’t Florida State in the non-conference slate, beat Purdue in West Lafayette, survived a bit of a skid (see below), went on another tear, survived a “loss” to Iowa, got the double-bye in the B1G Tourney, got a win over Michigan State (YES, REALLY!), made the NCAA Tournament, and brought home a pile of hardware: Richard Pitino, whose continued employment I was questioning 12 months ago, is B1G Coach of the Year. Reggie Lynch lived up to the hype surrounding his practice performances in his redshirt year, dominated the league in blocks and fouls, and is B1G Defensive Player of the Year. Amir Coffey was everything we wanted and is B1G 1st Team All-Freshman of the Year, and Nate Mason was 1st team All-B1G for his exceptional work being the trigger man for this squad. It was just fun to be able to watch Gopher basketball games without being miserable and hating yourself for doing it.

What Went Wrong?

Well...things. The B1G opener went sideways quickly in a game against Sparty we had well in control, and they took won in OT. There was a 5-game losing streak which had losses to three mediocre programs sandwiched between painful losses to Michigan State and Maryland that had more than a couple people wondering if things were about to go tits up like they did last season, but without the filmwork. The win over Michigan State in the B1G Tourney was nice, but it was costly as Akeem Springs injured his ankle and was lost for the season. Without him the Gophers lost their next two games to end the season in rather meek fashion.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So...yeah. I’ll be honest and say once again that I thought the Gophers were going to arrive in 2017-18 as a B1G contender. Whoops. It happened a year early. The only loss of note for next year is Akeem Springs, and it was easy to see the difference he made when he was gone. Newcomers next season are 4-star PG Isaiah Washington out of New York City and 3-star G Jamir Harris of Elizabeth, NJ. Additionally, there are reports that rumors of Davonte Fitzgerald’s demise may have been exaggerated and the former Texas A&M product may be healthy and ready to play.

In Conclusion

All things considered, 2016-17 was an astonishing success for the Gopher Basketball program, and things are looking up for 2017-18. But that’s enough about basketball. Let’s talk about P.J. Fleck for a moment while I’ve got you here...