Minnesota bubble talk? Let’s put a pin in that.
In our most recent NCAA bracket predictions, we had Minnesota in as one of seven Big Ten reps, with a rather unimpressive 10 seed.
After the Gophers dropped back-to-back games to Big Ten also-rans Nebraska and Purdue, even that seems generous.
They’ll finish the season 8-10 in the B1G, with only one league road win to their credit, from way back in early January when they won at then-No. 12 Illinois. A resume that could once be described as “shaky” has edged over into delirium tremens territory. Home wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and a top-ranked Indiana squad still look impressive, but bad road losses rub off a lot of the shine.
Minnesota may well get in, but their showing in the Big Ten tournament just became crucial. An early loss could boot them right off the bubble and into the NIT. Only an auto-bid can remove the weight from Tubby Smith’s shoulders right now, and that won’t be an easy get with five nationally-ranked teams gobbling up the top seeds in the conference postseason.
What do the Gophers need to do to get into tourney shape? I’m glad you asked. Turnovers and poor defense are blighting Minnesota’s stat sheet. They gave the ball up 13 times at Purdue, in keeping with a season-long tendency to get loose and sloppy with the ball at the worst times. The Boilermakers also lit them up for 54 percent from the floor, which is the Boilers’ best showing of the season.
Right now, the Gophers will be lucky to play in the First Four.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.