After the end of the season was wrapped up last year, there were not very many Gopher fans that were optimistic for the future. Minnesota finished the 2015-2016 campaign with a 8-23 record overall and a 2-16 record in the BigTen. Throughout the entire year you could throw a dead cat in the Barn and odds were that it wouldn't hit anybody. One of the better home court advantages in the Big Ten goes out the window when you are unable to fill the seats. Slowly but surely the Barn started to rock once again. In the last few home games the Minnesota faithful have come out in full force.

Basketball is Back in Minnesota

It's safe to say that expectations coming into this year for Minnesota were simply for the players to show improvement. This is exactly what they did, but to a point that nobody thought was possible. After a ten point win on Saturday, the gophers have racked up 22 total wins. The victory against Penn State also made it seven straight wins for the Gophers, which ranks as the longest win streak in all of the Power 5 conferences.

Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy have been stepping their game up this year. Mason is leading the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game, also chipping in 5.3 assists per game. Jordan Murphy is averaging 11 points and 8.7 rebounds. A couple of key additions have contributed to the improvement of the Gophers.

The lone senior in the rotation for the Gophers is Akeem Springs, who is Minnesota's best three point threat and hit the game winner against Indiana at Williams Arena. Next they were able to keep highly touted recruit Amir Coffey in state to come and play for his hometown Gophers. Reggie Lynch is a huge piece to the puzzle after sitting out last year due to transfer rules.

Lynch is leading the BigTen in blocks with 3.4 per game. The amazing thing is that Lynch has been heavily hampered by foul trouble and only averages 22 minutes per game for Minnesota. Against Penn State Lynch was able to rack up an amazing 11 blocks and set the single season block record for the Gophers. It would be tough for coach Richard Pitino to get on Lynch for the fouls when he is producing so many blocks.

Averaging a block every 6.8 minutes, if Lynch was able to stay on the floor longer, there might be more nights like the 11 block night for Lynch. The secret to Lynch's prowess as a shot blocker is that he is able to block a shot with either hand to keep the ball in play.

Offensively, Minnesota has been extremely balanced. Besides Mason, the Gophers have four other players averaging double digits. Amir Coffey (12.2 PPG), Akeem Springs (10.1 PPG), Jordan Murphy (11 PPG), Dupree McBrayer (10.9 PPG), and Reggie Lynch is not far behind with 8.2 points per game.

Tournament Bound?

What's next for Minnesota? The NCAA tournament. For the first time in Pitino's tenure as head coach at Minnesota, the Gophers have a great chance to make the tournament, and even get a decent seed.

Minnesota ranks 23rd in the country in strength of schedule and the NCAA rating percentage index. Minnesota has also been in many close games, playing five games that eventually went to overtime, in which they went 3-2. Playing in these high pressure situations will help the team down the line to handle the pressure of a win or go home game in the tournament.