Reports of Gophers', Wolves' deaths exaggerated?

RUFF:I'd proclaimed the Gophers men's basketball team NIT bound and the Wolves' chances of playoffs at zero. That was less than two weeks ago.

Now I'm left wondering if my nail-in coffin statements were too hasty. The Gophers surprised me by beating an excellent Iowa team, then had a quality loss (there is such a thing) at Big Ten leader Michigan, hanging around until the final two minutes. . .As for our beleaguered Wolves, they've won six of seven, and are now in the conversation for the eighth and final playoff spot.

So tell me, should I be feeling foolish for having boarded up my hopes? Or did I have it right?

BOESE:I think the reality is somewhere in the middle, but I'm not surprised that you like being dramatic. Both teams are just good enough to give Minnesotans hope, while also being so inconsistent that they drive hoopheads crazy.

Personally, I think the Gophers sneak into the Big Dance and the Wolves come up just a few games short to send both teams into huge offseasons. Can Richard Pitino cash in on the surprising success to land a few more recruits? Given his strange contract situation — THANKS, KAHN — does Kevin Love ask for a trade after another year without the playoffs?


RUFF:The Gophers are still one quality power forward from being a bonafide NCAA Tournament team this season. That's why it still leaves me weepy that DeLaSalle stud Reid Travis picked Stanford instead of Minnesota for next year. Travis would have fit in perfectly for Pitino, rounding next season's club into a real contender.

I think the Gophers win against Penn State at home Sunday, then don't do enough in the Big Ten Tournament to sway the NCAA selection committee to join their Dance. As for the Wolves, if nothing else a late-season playoff push might sway Love as he makes up his mind about his basketball future. Things seem to be rising for this franchise, but I've said that as many times as there are lakes and frozen days in our fine state.

The section boys basketball basketball playoffs are to the nitty-gritty championships this week. How are your picks coming?

BOESE:Well, I'm no Nostradamus. A blown ACL sabotaged my Farmington pick and I totally whiffed on my Class AA predictions of Hayfield and P-E-M. Still, I dinked and dunked my way to a Christian Ponder-like 62.5 completion percentage. Hopefully my Hail Mary — Red Wing upsetting No. 3 Austin in a rematch of last year's OT thriller — doesn't land at the 15-yard line.

Does John Marshall have a chance against Lakeville North's JP Macura, the high-flying Xavier recruit?

RUFF:If the Rockets play like they did Saturday against Farmington, they do. That's as good as I've seen them perform all season. JM did everything well, including getting another dagger performance from 3-point specialist Emerson Gonyea. The senior has turned into a huge difference maker for a team which has size and inside scoring ability, but needed something to balance that out. Gonyea has given it to them. He hit 6 of 10 3-point tries against Farmington, stiff-arming the Tigers whenever they'd make a move.

But Farmington is cleary not Lakeville North, led by its top-four-player-in-the-state guy Macura. The 6-foot-5 senior is an absolute handful, scoring inside, outside, and getting to the basket. He's another in-state player who Pitino would have loved to have landed. It will take a special performance by JM to beat Lakeville North, and likely a not-so-special one by Marcura. But it's not out of the realm. JM is feeling good about itself right now, and rightfully so.

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