Can't Stop What's Comin'
After their biggest win of the season, at home against Ohio State last Saturday, the Gophers had to know their only hope of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament was to win their final two regular season games--on the road against Indiana and Illinois. They managed neither. As in most of the games they have played against good teams this year, against Indiana the Gophers looked good enough to win for much of the game before one of their patented scoring droughts hit with about eight minutes to go. What had been a tight game turned into a 14 point loss. At Illinois--the 10th place team in the conference who had already embarrassed Minnesota at Williams Arena--they reprised another oldie-but-goodie: not rebounding in any circumstance, for any reason.
So: the Gophs last hope is an improbable, stirring Big Ten tournament victory, the kind of thing that almost never happens. They first play Northwestern on Thursday in a game that they really should win (but, I mean, you never know). Then comes the hard part. If they do dispatch the Wildcats, they would earn the privilege of facing Indiana again, then probably Purdue, and then probably Wisconsin. That's three teams that the Gophers have yet to beat in five chances. In other words, it's a rough road. I'll let you know how it turns out, though.