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Hayden Goethe, Published October 30 2009

Goethe: Tubby has Midas touch for Gophers program

If the Gophers truly are Golden, then head coach Tubby Smith is their Midas.

The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll was released Thursday, and the University of Minnesota made the cut at No. 25.

That might not seem like much to outside observers, and a lot of coaches will tell you it doesn’t mean much either.

But one thing it does reveal is the expectation level for this program entering the season.

Smith has turned quite the trick since arriving on Minnesota’s campus in 2007, taking over for fired coach Dan Monson and his interim replacement Jim Molinari.

Having resigned from one of the most storied programs in college basketball at Kentucky, Smith found himself trying to turn around a Gophers program still feeling the effects of the academic scandal uncovered in 1999. At that time, the program was sanctioned and forced to vacate a number of its victories under then-head coach Clem Haskins, including its Final Four appearance in 1997.

Taking the reins of a 22-loss team from the previous season, Smith reshaped the Gophers into a team that has won at least 20 games in his first two seasons. And sporting a highly publicized recruiting class led by freshmen Royce White and Rodney Williams, the Gophers find themselves with something they haven’t had in a long time: expectations.

The bar is being raised for this program. An NCAA tournament berth is no longer a goal, but merely another step along the path toward something great. It’s a matter of how far Smith’s golden touch can take this program.

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558 or hgoethe@forumcomm.com