NIT title to springboard Gophers to future NCAA tourney success?


Was the Gophers men's basketball team's 65-63 win over Southern Methodist University in the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament a sign of future success in the NCAA tournament?

Recent history says it very well could be.

According to Sports Illustrated, four of the last seven teams to win an NCAA postseason tournament other than the Big Dance have gone on to reach the NCAA tournament the next year. Six of the seven runner-ups have also made the real tourney.

But reaching the tournament isn't the most encouraging sign. Baylor this year and West Virginia in 2008 went from winning secondary tournaments to reaching the Sweet 16 the next year. Two runner-ups, Baylor in 2010 and North Carolina in 2011 went all the way to the Elite Eight.

Minnesota should be good next season. Richard Pitino's team returns four of five starters, with the lone exception being senior guard Austin Hollins, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in the game against SMU.

It will take a long time before the Gophers reach the level of Pitino's father's Louisville Cardinals, but Rick Pitino did say watching his son lead a team to the NIT title was one of the highlights of his life, according to GopherSports.com.

Rick sat behind the Gophers' bench during the championship game, and he was in the Minnesota locker room during his son's post-game speech following a win in the NIT semifinals.

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