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College Basketball: Despite 20 wins, Gopher women headed to NIT

By Marcus R. Fuller

St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — For the fifth straight year, the Gophers women’s basketball team will not play in the NCAA tournament.

Coach Pam Borton’s squad recorded its first 20-win season since Minnesota last made the NCAA tournament in 2009, but the Gophers (20-12) were short on quality wins, while finishing with an 8-8 Big Ten record.

Borton will have to settle for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the third time in her 12 seasons with the program.

She had made the NCAA tournament in six of her first seven seasons, including the 2004 Final Four. The Gophers open the NIT today at 7 p.m. against Green Bay at Williams Arena.

“We’ve got the right kids in the program,” Borton said recently. “In the past, we haven’t had those kids who have been invested and committed to doing what they needed to be successful in the Big Ten. It’s been addition by subtraction the last few years. We have a great recruiting class that will be adding to (Amanda Zahui B.) and (Rachel Banham) next year. I think the future is very exciting.”

A five-player 2014 recruiting class is headed by Minnesota Ms. Basketball finalist Carlie Wagner of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva High School.

“I thought they would have a chance to make the NCAA tournament this year,” ESPN bracket expert Charlie Creme said. “But next year, the Gophers should be a solid NCAA tournament team.”

Minnesota won four straight Big Ten games, but it couldn’t pick up any top 50 RPI conference wins, most notably in an overtime loss at Nebraska.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.