Tubby Smith, The Barn and Golden Gopher Basketball

E Paul LianCorrespondent IJune 24, 2009

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 19:  Head coach Tubby Smith of the Minnesota Golden Gophers yells to his team against the Texas Longhorns during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 19, 2009 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Is it too early to start talking college hoops?

I don't think so.

Let's take a look at one of the premier basketball schools in the nation: The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Coached by Tubby Smith, the Golden Gophers are already preparing for a season ripe with promise.

First off, the Golden Gophers play in Williams Arena, often referred to as "The Barn." This facility got its start back in 1922, and after several improvements, now ranks again amongst the top college sports venues in the country.

When a fan steps into this facility, goose bumps are prevalent. The noise factor during a Gopher spurt is deafening, as the 14,000 fans threaten to blow the roof off. 

The sight lines are what makes this arena so special. Fans sit right on top of the action, and the raised floor sets the stage to feature some of the top college basketball talent in America.

Any prospective recruit who is trying to decide what school to attend is given a tour of "The Barn." It's no wonder the Gophers are again signing some of the most sought after basketball talent in the country.

A couple of 6'10" sophomore players are returning for the 2009-10 season. Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III have Gopher fans drooling with excitement. Both of these young men are adding weight, muscle, and maturity in order to take the next step into the limelight.

Several quick, sharp shooting role players will make the Golden Gophers another definite threat for Big Ten honors and the school's second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

The cog that brings this all together is Head Coach Tubby Smith, who is heading into his third season at Minnesota. Smith recently turned down several other college and NBA job offers to continue building what he started. The fans, and many in the media, have turned Smith, his wife, and family into the darlings of Minnesota.

The combination of talent, coaching and a rabid fan base have Golden Gopher basketball fans chomping at the bit for the season to get started.