It’s February 19th today but if you turned on the Minnesota-Maryland college basketball game last night, didn’t it feel a little bit like the middle of March? It did for me as I watched the Golden Gophers improve to 1-13 in their 68-63 upset win over the number six ranked Terrapins. Now before you go thinking you know how big of an upset this was based merely on the numbers I just gave you, don’t let the 1-13 record fool you, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, if possible, are worse than their record shows. And I would say the same thing if they had lost last night and were 0-14.
Minnesota lost this year in back to back home games to South Dakota and South Dakota State. If you’ve ever been on a road trip and to pass the time you try to name all 50 states, South Dakota is the one you forget, always. And then even after your friend looks it up and tells you it was South Dakota you missed, you still say to him, “wait, are you sure they count that as one of the 50?” They also got blown out twice by the barrage of undersized, unathletic and sometimes European looking white guys Northwestern trotted out this year (as a Northwestern fan I feel comfortable saying that).
And then there is Maryland, a team that is cluttered with NBA talent such as Melo Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon and Diamond Stone. So how did such an awful Minnesota team beat what most thought was a national title contender Maryland team? Minnesota must have just shot really well right? No, Minnesota shot just 34.8% from three and almost impressively managed to shoot worse overall at 33.3%. Maryland meanwhile shot marginally better. So how did Minnesota do it? Well they did make a few more free throws and Maryland turned the ball over a few more times but how did they do it? Nothing special, no miracle, they just plain and simple played better than Maryland.
What we forget so often about these college players who we celebrate and idolize as if they were wise old men, is that they are just kids. 18 and 19 year olds don’t have it all together all the time and this allows slip-ups and allows bad teams to beat good ones. And that is the beauty of college basketball and the absolute wonder that is March Madness.
The Golden Gophers aren’t close to good enough to make it into the big dance this year, but in college basketball, nothing is certain, bad teams beat good teams all the time. Though it is worth noting, in the history of the NCAA tournament, no team from South Dakota, the 51st state, has ever won a game, but I digress.
Think of this Minnesota game as just a precursor, really just the calm before the madness begins.