NCAA Travel Blog: Trying for the Sweet 16

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March 23 - 6:30 p.m.

GAME INFORMATION | Watch the Tournament Online

Quotes from Today's Media Activities: Minnesota | Florida

Blog: Previewing the Gators (by's Jeff Fett)

Yesterday, the Gophers had one final practice before taking on UCLA. Other than that, the team had all day to relax before playing the very last game of the NCAA Second Round.

The band and spirit squads (including national champion mascot Goldy, of course) have done a phenomenal job this weekend. They were at the 'Sota Social at the Tavern before the game, along with a lot of family and fans who had an opportunity to chat and have snacks before taking a shuttle to the arena.

Go Gophers! Gopher pep band
Go Gophers!
Our game ended up starting even later than planned when the Florida-Northwestern State game ran longer than expected. After getting to Austin on Wednesday afternoon, late Friday was a long time to wait to play. It was great to finally tip off at 9:22 p.m.

Go Gophers! about to tip off against UCLA
Go Gophers!
It was also great to see the Gophers take an early lead. Things got a little tense (for me, anyway) when UCLA chipped away at that lead at the beginning of the second half. And then it was hard not to start cheering on the sidelines when the Gophers pulled away again. After the 83-63 score went final, Tubby Smith and Dre Hollins did some on-court interviews. Smiley Dre got a lot of cheers going back to the locker room.

Go Gophers! Dre Hollins
Go Gophers!
After media obligations, we finally got back to the hotel around 12:30. The spirit squads and band again were very supportive, forming a tunnel for the team to go through as they went inside for the postgame meal.

The team had press conferences this afternoon, and will be finishing up their closed practice soon. A false fire alarm during Miami's practice earlier today pushed back the schedule for the rest of the practices. I used practice time to explore the surrounding part of campus. At Texas Memorial Stadium, a gate was ajar, so I walked through without asking, just to snap a couple pictures.

Go Gophers! Texas Memorial Stadium
Go Gophers!
Wearing my Minnesota shirt for the walk appears to have paid off. A nice man at the stadium told me he only let me in because he liked Tubby. On my way back to the Frank Erwin Center, someone said, "Go, Gophs!" to me out of a car window.

March 21 -10:30 p.m.


Blog: Previewing the Gophers-UCLA Match-Up

Minnesota Pre-Tournament Quotes Get Acrobat Reader

It's fitting that I mentioned the bat bridge earlier today, because we ended up having a close encounter with a bat tonight. A few different times during the Gophers' open practice, everyone stopped for a moment while a bat flew around in the court area at the Frank Erwin Center. (See the video above for some bat footage.) The bat even went at Julian Welch. I don't think Dre Hollins was a big fan--he kept running away. I guess Barnyard animals follow the Gophers around even when they're not playing in Williams Arena.

Go Gophers! Frank Erwin Center
Go Gophers!

Before practice, the media had access to the team. The locker room was open to media for half an hour. Coach Tubby Smith and the two captains, Austin Hollins and Rodney Williams, fielded questions in the press conference area during part of that time. As most of the media cleared out of the locker room, we started watching the Michigan-South Dakota State game before heading out to the court for practice.

Go Gophers! Minnesota locker room sign
Go Gophers!

A few tidbits from the locker room:

Rodney Williams, on the city of Austin:
"It's a pretty nice city, from what we've seen. I'm most happy about getting out of the cold weather, just being somewhere warm."

Williams, on being back in the Tournament as a senior:
"It's definitely nice. To come in my freshman year and get to the Tournament and then not go for a couple years, that was tough. To go out with an NCAA Tournament, I think that's the best way to go out."

Andre Hollins, on his first NCAA Tournament experience:
"It's very exciting. As a kid, you grow up watching college basketball with a sense of excitement. You're on the couch watching these games back to back with the players playing their hearts out. You just hope that one day that's you. Now that I have the opportunity to be here, it's crazy. It's exciting."

Go Gophers! team at the NCAA Tournament
Go Gophers!

The Gophers will have one last practice tomorrow before playing in the very last game of the 2013 Second Round (formerly known as the First Round) at about 9:00 p.m. For information about the viewing party in Roseville, the 'Sota Social in Austin and home viewing options, scroll down to the bottom of this article.

March 21 - 3:00 p.m.

Thursday has a day of practice and meetings so far. Some of the staff attended morning meetings to go over tournament procedures so that everything would run smoothly later in the day and on game day. The coaches' meeting starts pretty soon, as well.

Go Gophers! Frank Erwin Center
Go Gophers!

Pictured above: Frank Erwin Center

At noon, the Gophers practiced at St. Edward's University in Austin. Several of us watched basketball on our phones on the way there. (Check out the NCAA March Madness Live app if you have a smart phone or tablet--but be prepared to charge your device soon if you do. The app is free and allows you to track scores and watch games live.) At practice, we could see passers-by stopping at the windows to take a peek at the Division I team using the Division II Hilltoppers' gym.

Go Gophers! practice at St. Edward's
Go Gophers!

Our bus driver gave us a nice tour of the University of Texas campus and other parts of Austin before bringing us back to the hotel. The Longhorns have some incredible facilities, and their campus is spread out like the University of Minnesota. Places we saw included the state capitol building, the Longhorns' football and baseball stadiums, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and a bridge under which a lot of bats live (kind of creepy). There would be pictures of some of this if we had gotten off the bus--maybe I will add some tomorrow if I have a chance to walk around in the morning.

It has been kind of fun just walking or driving around Austin and seeing some of the quirky things in this city. It seems like there are food trucks just about everywhere. There are a handful of them right outside our hotel, and there are some streets with a whole bunch them lined up in a row. On one street not far from our hotel, people have converted most of the houses into bars/restaurants.

The Gophers will be going back to the Frank Erwin Center for media availability and open practice tonight. Practice is open to the public and runs from 6:40 to 7:20.

March 20 - 7:30 p.m.

Go Gophers!
Mack Brown
Go Gophers!

March Madness has officially begun for the Golden Gopher basketball team. The team, band, cheerleaders, staff and others involved with the program flew to Austin, Texas, this afternoon to get ready for Minnesota's game against UCLA on Friday night.

We left Williams Arena and well-below-average "spring" temperatures late in the morning and arrived in balmy Texas this afternoon. The Minnesota Rouser played in the airport as we were boarding. When we got off the plane at the airport, it was nice not to need a winter coat. A local news crew was at the hotel when we arrived to greet our buses and interview Tubby Smith.

The Gophers had lunch at the hotel, and went to practice later in the evening, where they had a chance to meet Texas Longhorns football coach Mack Brown and listen to a little talk from him. The Gophers will have their first look at the Frank Erwin Center court tomorrow during open practice. Anyone in Austin who wishes may come to watch on Thursday. Minnesota's open practice runs from 6:40 to 7:20 p.m.

Info for Friday
The No. 11 Gophers will play No. 6 UCLA in the second game of the Friday night session. The first game will start at 6:27 p.m. CT, and the Gophers will start 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game between Florida and Northwestern State. Find both teams' game notes and all the other information you need on our preview page.

For Gopher Fans in Minnesota
There will be a viewing party at Joe Senser's in Roseville. If you would like, come early for the Gopher men's hockey game at 7 p.m. and stay for the basketball game at 9 p.m. There will be food and beverage specials and chances to win prizes.

If you're watching on TV at home, try these channels: Comcast 51, DirecTV 246, Dish 204. Or look for your provider with the TruTV channel finder. Games are also available online at

For Gopher Fans in Austin
The NCAA Tournament edition of the 'Sota Social runs from 5-7 p.m. at the Tavern (922 West 12th Street, Austin, Texas, 78703). The event will feature snacks, a cash bar, prizes and entertainment. Starting at 6:30, fans can take a shuttle from the social to the arena for the game.

Gophers Build Case for NCAA Tourney Bid

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Go Gophers! MNB1G
Go Gophers!

By Jeff Fett

The Gopher men's basketball team is feeling the urgency to get a few more wins to hopefully solidify their NCAA tournament fate as they enter the B1G Basketball Tournament later this weekend in Chicago (Gophers play Illinois Thursday at 11 a.m.).

The year has moved quickly with the team experiencing a wide range of emotions this season. Starting guard Austin Hollins says the team just needs to win.

Go Gophers! Trev
Go Gophers!
Trevor Mbakwe and the ninth-seeded Gophers will take on eighth-seeded Illinois Thursday in the opening round of the B1G Tournament.
Go Gophers!
"The season has flown by so fast so its come down to this and you know we got to win out, that's our goal right now," Hollins said. "(When we) get to the Big Ten Tournament, we need to win the Big Ten Tournament to go to the NCAA Tournament, so you know we got our goals set still. We're still trying to achieve those (goals) so it's just a matter of taking care of business."

The Gophers have built their case to be in the NCAA Tourney. With quality wins over Stanford, Memphis, Richmond, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, the Gophers have put themselves in the discussion for an at large berth.

Minnesota also has a myriad of other factors in their favor. Their strength of schedule is second in the nation and their opponents' strength of schedule is tops in the nation.

The Gophers RPI is also among the top 20 in the nation. The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is important, because it measures a team's strength of schedule and the records of the teams in which they play as well.

The Gophers also are 13-9 against opponents with an RPI in the top 100 in the nation.

With the tournament season upon them, head coach Tubby Smith says Minnesota needs to remain focused.

"We know we've got a chance to get to the post-season and play in the NCAAs, but we've got a lot of work to do and I think our guys have to stay hungry and focused and take it one day at a time and one game at a time, then everything else will take care of itself if we do that," Smith said.

"We've shown we can play with anyone... We expected to be better in the Big 10, but we've beaten Michigan State, Wisconsin and others. We've beaten some good teams and with Indiana, we've competed with some good teams in the top 20 and top 100. We have the toughest schedule in college basketball, so we know what we're capable of."

Sneak Peek: Gophers vs. Penn State

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Go Gophers! MN_PSU
Go Gophers!

On Saturday, March 2nd, the Gophers will conclude the home schedule against Penn State at Williams Arena. In preparation for their only meeting with Penn State during the regular season,' s beat writer Jeff Fett takes a look at the Nittany Lions. 

Head Coach: Patrick Chambers 

This Year's Big 10 Record: 1-14 

Go Gophers! fans
Go Gophers!
The Gophers hope to capitalize on Tuesday's dramatic win over No. 1 Indiana during Senior Day on Saturday.
Go Gophers!

Top 5 Leading Scorers: D.J. Newbill-15.8 ppg, Jermaine Marshall-15.0 ppg, Sasa Borovnjak-6.9 ppg, Ross Travis-6.5 ppg, Brandon Taylor-5.7 ppg. 

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Ross Travis-7.2 rpg, D.J. Newbill-5.6 rpg, Jermaine Marshall-4.5 rpg, Brandon Taylor-3.5 rpg, Sasa Borovnjak-3.4 rpg. 

Notable wins: Michigan, Providence, Bucknell, Army 


Penn State has had its struggles, but a win over no. 4 ranked Michigan may have this team finally turning the corner. Head Coach Patrick Chambers has had a tough time in the Big Ten in his second season. At one point, Penn State lost 18 straight conference games dating back to last season, but the Nittany Lions will be coming in with some confidence after the first Big Ten win of the season. 

Penn State suffered a big blow just a few games into its season. All Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier ruptured his Achilles tendon in its loss to Akron. He's out for the year. He led Penn State last season in all of the major categories. He is a "Mr. Do Everything" for the Nittany Lions and is obviously missed.

Fortunately for Penn State, the backcourt is still their strength, even without Frazier. Sophomore D.J. Newbill, a transfer from Southern Miss has stepped up in his absence and is leading the team in scoring and second in rebounds. Junior Jermaine Marshall has also upped his game and provided much needed leadership on the court. 

In a tough Big Ten conference where there are plenty of big men to throw the basketball to, that's where Penn State needs help. The tallest player playing consistent minutes is 6'9" junior Sasa Borovnjak. He's averaging six points and three rebounds a game. Chaska native Ross Travis leads this team in rebounding at 7.2 boards per game. 

Penn State has had its struggles this season, but a few more wins to end the year could build some confidence as the Nittany Lions look toward next season. 

Video Collection: Coach Smith on the Indiana Win

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Many Gopher Basketball fans are still on Cloud Nine after the Gophers' incredible upset of No. 1-ranked Indiana Tuesday at the Barn, Minnesota's first victory over a No. 1 team since 1989 (Illinois).

Gopher head coach Tubby Smith and his staff are busy preparing for Saturday's home final vs. Penn State, but Coach has taken some time to address the local media over the past couple of days to reflect on the victory. Above, has exclusive video of Coach's post game address to his players in the locker room directly following the game -- it's not quite as hip-shaking as his post-Wisconsin speech, but still worth watching!

Coach also spoke with the media during a special availability on Wednesday. Watch highlights from that interview below:

In addition, the Big Ten Network was kind enough to share with us Coach Smith's post game on-court interview with Ann Carroll directly following the win. Take a look below: 

The Gophers are hard at work preparing for Senior Day on Saturday, when they end their home season against the Penn State Nittany Lions (tickets available by clicking here). PSU pulled off a court-storming upset of their own Wednesday against No. 4 Michigan.

Next Day Reaction: Gophers Stun No. 1 Indiana

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TICKETS: Watch the home finale vs. Penn State Saturday!

It was one of the most memorable games in recent Gopher basketball history -- Tubby Smith's squad took down No. 1-ranked Indiana last night in dramatic fashion, and it was followed by an epic court storming by the Maroon and Gold faithful at the Barn, all in front of a national TV audience on ESPN. is collecting links, videos, Tweets and more on last night's epic win! Be sure to watch the "super slow-mo" montage we put together above, and check out these as well:

- Of course, you have to watch the highlights from the game first ( 

- Mbakwe's epic block of Cody Zeller (ESPN):

- TV call of court storming (ESPN):

- A few notable Tweets from last night:

-And finally, one of our favorite photos of the night via ESPN's Mike Tirico on Twitter

Get to Know Maverick: Video Feature

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Watch this video feature on Gopher men's basketball guard Maverick Ahanmisi. The junior and Santa Clarita, Calif. native has provided a spark off the bench for the Gophers in 2012-13, playing in all 26 games (through Feb. 20) and shooting a team-best 42 percent from behind the three-point line.

Through Feb. 20, Ahanmisi is averaging 3.7 points and 9.9 minutes per game. His 16 three-pointers (in 38 attempts) has already set a career high.

Feature originally aired during "Gopher Basketball with Tubby Smith" which can be seen Fridays on Fox Sports North. Check your local listing for exact times and dates.

Sneak Peek: Gophers at #18/18 Ohio State

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Go Gophers! MN_OSU
Go Gophers!

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, the Gophers will continue the Big Ten season against Ohio State in Columbus. In preparation for their only meeting with OSU during the regular season,'s Jeff Fett previewed the Buckeyes. 

Head Coach: Thad Matta 

2012-13 Record: 18-7 (8-5) 

Leading Scorers: Deshaun Thomas-20.2 ppg; Lenzelle Smith, Jr.-10.3 ppg; Aaron Craft-9.5 ppg; LaQuinton Ross-7.8 ppg; Sam Thompson-7.0 ppg.      

Leading Rebounders: Deshaun Thomas-6.2 rpg; Lenzelle Smith, Jr.-5.3 rpg; Evan Ravenel-4.6 rpg; Amir Williams-4.2 rpg; Aaron Craft-3.8 rpg. 

Notable wins: Michigan, Washington, Winthrop, Wisconsin 

Notable losses: Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, Illinois 


Ohio State is one of those scary young teams no one wants to face this time of year. 

The Buckeyes have only one senior in Evan Ravenel, and are led by junior guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. and junior power forward Deshaun Thomas. 

Last season, Jared Sullinger and William Buford led this team, but Thomas has stepped up this season and is shooting the lights out, averaging a conference-high 20.2 ppg. Craft is also one of the best defenders in the nation.

Along with Craft and Thomas, the Buckeyes are getting nice contributions this season from their sophomore class of Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott. 

After a non-conference season where they beat respectable teams in Washington and Winthrop, the Buckeyes have taken care of business in the Big Ten this season. They've beat the teams they needed to in Nebraska, Penn State and Northwestern, which are near the bottom of the standings, but they've also knocked off conference contenders in Michigan and Wisconsin too. 

Right now, the Buckeyes appear in safe position for a spot in the NCAA tournament, but the schedule still has some roadblocks. Such is life in the Big Ten Conference. 

Trevor Mbakwe: Behind the Scenes

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What is Trevor Mbakwe looking to accomplish during his final year in college basketball? Go inside the mind of this St. Paul native as he talks about coming back from a torn ACL to try and lead Minnesota to the NCAA Tournament.

This video feature originally appeared during "Gopher Basketball with Tubby Smith" Friday nights on Fox Sports North. Check local listings for exact times and channel information.

Sneak Peek: No. 23/24 Gophers vs. Iowa

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Go Gophers! MN_IND
Go Gophers!

The No. 23/24 Gophers picked up a 19-point win against Nebraska to snap a four-game losing streak. They will take on Iowa, which just beat Penn State, at noon on Sunday.'s Jeff Fett previewed the Hawkeyes.

Head Coach: Fran McCaffrey

Go Gophers! Rodney Williams
Go Gophers!
Rodney Williams scored 23 points against Nebraska and will look to carry the momentum into Sunday.
Go Gophers!

Current Record: 14-7 (3-5 Big Ten)

Last Year's Big Ten Record: 8-10

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Roy Devyn Marble-14.1 ppg; Aaron White-14.0 ppg; Mike Gesell-8.8 ppg; Melsahn Basabe-7.4 ppg; Zach McCabe-5.9 ppg.

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Aaron White-6.0 rpg; Adam Woodbury-5.3 rpg; Melsahn Basabe-4.5 rpg; Roy Devyn Marble-4.0 rpg; Zach McCabe-3.8 rpg.

Notable Non-Conference Wins: Gardner-Webb, Iowa State, University of Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky

Notable Non-Conference Losses: Wichita State, Virginia Tech

Conference Wins: Northwestern, Wisconsin, Penn State

Conference Losses: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue


Second-year head coach Fran McCaffery led the Hawkeyes to a few good wins over a couple of mid-major programs during the non-conference season, and Iowa appeared to be turning the corner thanks to a strong freshman class.

The Hawkeyes brought an 11-2 record into Big Ten play. They have had some struggles against the tough conference competition, but three of their losses have been by three points or fewer.

So far this season, junior Roy Devyn Marble leads the Hawkeye attack. The guard/small forward has been a strong leader for a young team. Sophomore Aaron White has had some strong performances, too. Along with the top scorers, two freshmen in guard Mike Gesell and center Adam Woodbury have Iowa fans believing in this team again.

The Hawkeyes know how to score points. They are averaging 73.0 points per game, just behind the Gophers at fourth in the conference.

Many predicted Iowa to be a sleeper team this season. If they continue to win their most winnable games, and pick up a few victories from ranked teams as well, the Hawkeyes could still finish somewhere in the middle of the Big Ten. A finish in the upper half would be a major accomplishment for this young team.

Austin Hollins Video Feature: Improving Every Day

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Go Gophers! fans
Go Gophers!
Austin Hollins has emerged as one of the Gophers' go-to scorers this season.
Go Gophers!
Go behind-the-scenes with Gopher juinor Austin Hollins in this exclusive video feature story on the Tennessee native. The junior guard is having a solid season in 2012-13, averaging 10.9 points and 29 minutes per game.

This feature originally aired during "Gopher Basketball with Tubby Smith" which appears each Friday during Big Ten Season on Fox Sports North. Check your local listings for times and more details.

Hollins scored a career-high 21 points against Michigan earlier this season and also led the way in the Gophers' Jan. 6 victory over Northwestern at Williams Arena, hitting a career-high five three-pointers in just three minutes of play.


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