The NCAA Tournament isn't just a fresh start for the Gophers men's basketball team. It's also a chance for the players to restore head coach Tubby Smith's image with local media, which has put Smith on the "hot seat."
Senior forward Trevor Mbakwe tells the Pioneer Press that players have contributed to Smith's tough position, and they "want to go out there and play for him."
If Mbakwe wants to be a major fact against UCLA he'll need to stay out of foul trouble. In Minnesota's last two losses to Purdue and Illinois he picked up two early fouls and sat for the majority of the first half. If it happens against UCLA Smith says he'll keep Mbakwe on the bench again.
Mbakwe says Minnesota has proven it can compete with the best teams in the country, but they "have to get back to playing that way and actually believing."