Malik Smith

Minnesota fends off a talented Nebraska-Omaha group

Leave a comment

On the surface, Minnesota leading Nebraska-Omaha — who is in just their second year of playing a schedule comprised of almost exclusively Division I competition — 83-77 with just minutes remaining in regulation may seem like a lackluster effort by the Golden Gophers. That’s far from the case.

Minnesota played well. Their potent offense ran up 90+ points in a 92-79 win, and they excelled in transition throughout the game. Deandre Mathieu poured in 27 points on 9-11 shooting. Their defense left much to be desired, but a tip of the hat must be given to Omaha.

Omaha isn’t eligible to win the Summit League championship as they are still in the midst of their transition to Division I, but they will no doubt be a factor in that league, along with Denver, North Dakota State, and IPFW.

It was clear this wouldn’t be a walk in the park for Minnesota from the beginning as Omaha had an offensive answer every time Minnesota looked like it may go on a run. In the opening half, they used the three-point shot to keep pace and knot the game at 44 by halftime, hitting ten triples.

To think that the Mavericks could duplicate their shooting performance in the second half would have been nearly impossible, and they didn’t. In fact, they didn’t hit one shot from beyond the arc in the second half. Despite that, they leaned on Devin Patterson and CJ Carter, who scored in a variety of ways.

Head coach Derrin Hansen is building something good in Omaha — no doubt about that. A team just doesn’t go into Iowa and lead the Hawkeyes with less than ten minutes remaining without being a talented bunch.

As for the Gophers, they have played well since consecutive losses in Maui against Syracuse and Arkansas, having won five straight games. Mathieu and Andre Hollins both had big nights, but it was the play of Malik Smith off the bench (19 points, 5-8 3PT) that should have Gopher fans encouraged. Minnesota already has one of the better back courts in the Big Ten, and if Smith — who transferred from Florida International to follow Rick Pitino Jr. — fills the role of instant offense off the bench, the Gophers become that much more dynamic.

Minnesota has a final tune-up against Texas A&M Corpus Christi next Saturday, prior to their Big Ten opener vs. Michigan — that’s when the fun begins.

Report: Rakeem Buckles’ appeal for a waiver at Minnesota denied

4 Comments

Last week, Rakeem Buckles was denied a waiver by the NCAA that would have allowed the Florida International transfer to play immediately at Minnesota this season.

On Tuesday, Buckles’ appeal was also denied, meaning that the former Louisville forward will be forced to return to Florida International to use his final season of eligibility, which will give critics of the decision-makers at NCAA offices even more ammo in the seemingly-endless assault on the organization’s credibility recently.

Consistency and compassion are two things that the NCAA seems to completely lack.

Buckles has had been plagued by the bad luck of the injury bug throughout his career, as he dealt with a torn ACL in each knee, a concussion, and a spiral fracture of a finger during his three seasons with the Cardinals. He transferred to FIU after the 2011-2012 season, following Richard Pitino when he was named head coach, and sat out last year to rehab from his second torn ACL.

When Pitino was named head coach at Minnesota, Buckles made the decision to once again follow his coach, and given the circumstances, it seemed a formality that Buckles would get a waiver to play immediately.

FIU is banned from postseason play in 2013-2014 due to APR issues stemming back to the Isiah Thomas era. Another FIU player, JuCo transfer Malik Smith, was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play immediately at Minnesota since he only had one year of eligibility remaining; the NCAA will generally grant a waiver is a player’s remaining eligibility would be played under a postseason ban at his current school.

But Buckles’ bad luck continued, as he will not be able to go to Minnesota and continue his basketball career. He had already signed a Big Ten tender and been admitted to Minnesota, but since Buckles five-year clock expires after the 2013-2014 season, sitting out a year would mean that he’s unable to use his fourth year of eligibility.

“I’m just blown away by it,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino told ESPN.com after Buckles’ waiver was denied. “It makes no sense. It’s amazing the NCAA can do this. He’s a model student-athlete who had a 3.2 GPA when he left Louisville. He just wants a chance to play in another NCAA tournament.

“[Buckles] had no idea that the program wouldn’t be able to play in the NCAA tournament when he transferred to FIU. This is a good kid who has dealt with plenty of adversity over his career. It’s completely unfair.”