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.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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