MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Gopher basketball team had a chance to put their remarkable regular season on pause Monday, in the process garnering a number of individual awards after one of the biggest turnarounds of the past 20 years in conference play.
Richard Pitino was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. His Gophers team improved some 15 wins, from 8-23 a year ago to 23-8 this season. The 11 conference wins were the most in 20 years. Pitino was named Coach of the Year in separate voting by the coaches and the media.
Junior guard Nate Mason was named first team All-Big Ten — the first Gopher to earn that distinction since Vincent Grier back in 2005. He led Minnesota, averaging 17 points a game in the Big Ten, highlighted by his 31 points in their upset win at Purdue.
Junior Reggie Lynch was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten. Lynch finished with 106 blocked shots, second most in Division I basketball this season. The last Gopher to lead the conference in blocked shots was Randy Breuer in 1983.
Amir Coffey was also named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
The Gophers have the Big Ten tournament coming up starting Friday and the NCAA tournament the following week.