Huskies Insider Blog

Gameday: Minnesota vs. Washington in the NIT semifinals

Well, we are back at Madison Square Garden once again. The Huskies aren't playing a team at the level of Marquette or Duke, but the stakes are actually higher.

On paper, and on the floor, Washington should win this basketball game. They have more talent, more size, more speed and more depth than Minnesota. The Huskies also have the advantage of already playing at Madison Square Garden this season.

Of course, all of that won't matter if Washington doesn't defend or play with energy. It's that simple. The margin for error is that small. Washington can beat teams, but I don't know if they are good enough to overwhelm them.

From my story in today's paper ...

When the Huskies take the floor tonight at Madison Square Garden for a National Invitation Tournament semifinal against Minnesota, it will be a better team than took the same floor earlier this season. It’s been 26 games and a little over three months since this team was here playing on basketball’s biggest stage against two of the country’s best programs in Marquette and Duke.

While there were several hints of what the Huskies could be this season in the two close losses, Romar left New York and Madison Square Garden with more questions than answers.

Unsure might be the best way to describe the team at that point.

“We were not sure,” Romar said. “We weren’t sure of our roles. We weren’t sure how to win close games. We weren’t sure how to win on the road.”

Since then, Romar and his team experienced championship highs and heartbreaking lows. The Huskies looked like an NCAA tournament team, won the Pacific-12 Conference regular-season title, then played their way out of a bid.

And yet, progress was made. It’s indicative of how the team has played during the NIT, moving past the disappointment and finding its motivation to make the games important.

“It’s a totally different team now,” Romar said.

It’s different in a good way. Roles have been defined. There is an understanding of what needs to be done in practice and in games for success, particularly on defense. There’s a business-like maturity to the team.

The experience of being passed over by the NCAA tournament selection committee and finding a way to refocus for the NIT has made the team better.Here's the AP game preview .

Here's the preview from Sportspress NW

From the Gophers' perspective ...

Here's a story by Amelia Rayno of the Star Tribune on Minnesota's Rodney Williams, who is averaging 22 points per game in the NIT.  Here's her gameday box.

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press, here's Marcus Fuller's game preview where Tubby Smith says that Washington is one of the best teams the Gophers will play and easily the best team in the NIT. He also has this story on the Gophers not being the biggest show in town. The Gophers won't have many fans from the home state at MSG with the cost being too high.