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2012 Big Ten Tournament: Young Minnesota Golden Gophers Earn Praise

The Minnesota Golden Gophers picked up a big win on Thursday afternoon, defeating the Northwestern Wildcats in overtime to advance to the second round of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament. It was a gritty performance that Tubby Smith's team didn't seem capable of toward the end of the year.

That might be because it was essentially a whole different team, according to our SB Nation friends over at The Daily Gopher. The only player Minnesota was missing was senior Ralph Sampson III due to injury, but TDG notes his absence had the whole team playing different than it had over the final games of the regular season.

I am loving the future of Hollins as the Gopher's primary scorer. In fact tonight was the debut of the 2012-13 Gophers. Hollins, Hollins and Coleman in the backcourt with Eliason and Williams manning the paint. Even without the return of Mbakwe I expect this team to be better, Mbakwe's presence just raises expectations.

This was a gutty win by the Gophers. In the first half Northwestern hit 9 / 20 threes and fortunately Rodney Williams hit a deep (and rare) three to keep the deficit to just two at the half. But the Gophers came out in the second half with a more aggressive man-to-man. The man-to-man limited NU to just five three-point attempts in the second half and 33.3% overall shooting.

It'd be surprising if they're able to do the same against the Michigan Wolverines on Friday night, but win or lose, it should give Gophers fans hope for the future.

For more on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also learn more about college basketball around the nation at SB Nation's College Basketball hub.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.