For the third consecutive season, the University of Minnesota men's basketball team has earned an early season non-conference victory over a highly-ranked opponent.
The Gophers upset eighth-ranked North Carolina 72-67 Friday in the semifinals of the Honda Puerto Rico Tip-Off, an early season tournament, and media outlets are starting to give the Gophers a lot of respect.
Following the win, ESPN called the Gophers a legitimate contender for the Big Ten conference title.
A surprising number of Minnesota fans turned out for the game in San Juan, and the Gophers fed off that energy to produce the upset victory.
The progress made by the Gophers over the past few years says a lot about Tubby Smith's ability as a coach. When he took over in 2007, the team was coming off a season with only 9 wins, but they have steadily improved and have participated in the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons.
Smith's successes also give hope to the struggling Gopher football program. If Joel Maturi, athletic director at the university, can recruit a big-name coach to take over the program, there is no reason that the Gopher football team cannot duplicate the basketball team's success in a few seasons.
With their victory over North Carolina, the Gophers have given hope struggling programs and to a region looking for a hot team to unite behind during the winter months.