Gophers Take Upbeat Attitude To NIT

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Tubby Smith, University, Of Minnesota, Gophers, Head, Coach

Head coach Tubby Smith of the Minnesota Golden Gophers calls out in the first half during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men’s basketball tournament against the Xavier Musketeers at the Bradley Center on March 19, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The National Invitation Tournament is often viewed as an anticlimactic, meaningless conclusion to the college basketball season, particularly for a program like Minnesota stuck in mediocrity for more than a decade.

The players see the NIT differently than the fans, though. With a young lineup and a pesky problem of failing to turn late leads into wins, the Gophers are counting this as bonus time toward future development.

Minnesota plays at La Salle in the first round Wednesday night. Given the expectations that came with coach Tubby Smith’s arrival in 2007, a spot in the NIT can’t be considered progress. But last year the Gophers weren’t even invited to the second-tier tournament. So this time they’re eager to keep playing.

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