Stanford vs. Minnesota: Golden Gophers Are NCAA Bound in 2013 After Finals' Run

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIMarch 30, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27: Goldy Gopher, mascot of the Minnesota Golden Golphers, is seen during the semifinals of the 2012 NCAA NIT Men's Basketball Championship between the Washington Huskies and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images)
Jason Szenes/Getty Images

While losing the NIT finals is never fun, Minnesota can take some solace in the fact that like Stanford, they have an incredibly bright future ahead of them. 

Not only will Minnesota return most of it's top players, but if you look at the roster (per ESPN), you will see only one senior, Ralph Sampson III.   

One name you wont see there is Trevor Mbakwe, who was inactive for most of the season. 

The Associated Press (via ESPN) has even said that Mbakwe will likely come back as a medical redshirt for one more year. He was the team's top player early in the season before getting hurt in the seventh game of the campaign. 

Next year's Minnesota team will be the perfect squad to compete in the Big Ten against some of the more talented rosters like Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Michigan. 

The reason is that those teams tend to rely a lot on freshmen and sophomores for scoring. While they may bring in the more talented rosters in terms of NBA talent, those teams often have trouble against players that have been playing together for two or three years.

Minnesota will have that working in its favor next season, and that will translate to at least the NCAA, and don't be surprised to see them make a run once they're in. 

It is just extremely rare for teams in this era to be made up of the same players for consecutive seasons. When a team is afforded that opportunity and was already pretty good to begin with, they rarely fail to improve the next season. 

The NIT is hardly on anyone's list of goals on the regular season and, if it is, you would have to assume that it's pretty much a "Win or Bust" sort of deal. But even though the Golden Gophers lost the NIT Final this year, it will turn in to greater success in 2013.