The Gophers' emotionally-charged 77-73 upset win over No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday night was a win the program has been seeking for 16 long years.
Minnesota winters are long, but are even longer when the hoops team can't buy a big-time win.
Their first victory over a No. 1-ranked team since 1989 and only fourth in program history carried significantly more weight than an unexpected notch in the standings.
Minnesota has not officially recorded an NCAA Tournament win since 1989 after five tourney wins, including the 1997 Final Four, were vacated in the academic fraud scandal that led to Clem Haskins' demise.
That scandal wiped out the only Final Four banner in The Barn's rafters and notoriously flung them into 15 seasons of mediocrity, if that.
Tubby Smith was brought to Minneapolis in 2007 with the lofty hopes of stabilizing a tired program badly needing a facelift. While consistency has come in the form of four 20-win seasons on the heels of a 9-win 2005-06 season, their worst in nearly 50 years, the veteran coach has never won the big game.
Smith has never won a tournament game, never led the Gophers back to the top of the Big Ten and never won the big one, one that prompted the program's first court rush in over a decade.
With rumors lingering across Dinkytown of a possible coaching change, the 61-year-old head coach lifted a Joel Przybilla-sized gorilla off his shoulders with a season-defining triumph.
Smith has seen a small army of players transfer out of the program, with the likes of Devoe Joseph, Justin Cobbs and Paul Carter leaving the 'U' early in their careers.
He has also struggled on the recruiting front, losing local battles to neighboring programs, and with three Top 40 recruits in the class of 2014 (via ESPN.com) hailing from the Twin Cities, Tubby is being pushed to deliver. A four-point victory over the No. 1 team might not convince Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn or Reid Travis to stay home but it's a start.
The Gophers have proven they are committed to their all-around athletics department with TCF Bank Stadium opening in 2009, a new baseball complex under construction and finally a new basketball facility in the works.
Unfortunately Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague has not had much hoops-related excitement to boast about during donor visits and morale-boosting fundraising events. The Gophers have not delivered during his short tenure, nor have they for the last 16 seasons.
Andre Hollins' late three never goes down. Trevor Mbakwe isn't suppose to hit both free throws. Elliott Eliason shouldn't be able to back down All-American Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo should hit every dagger from the perimeter.
Dan Monson couldn't lead the Golden Gophers to respectability and Tubby Smith wasn't expected to suddenly change their fortunes in his sixth season.
Minnesota is not suppose to win these program-boosting games.