The Daily Gopher: Regardless of who wins or loses this game, do you think both Illinois and Minnesota are safely in the NCAA Tournament?
Mark: Not to sound like a homer, but I feel like only Illinois is sitting safely in the tournament right now. Thank god for those wins over Gonzaga and Butler away from Champaign. The Gophers, to me at least, are right on the bubble leaning on the in side. A loss to Illinois won't kill them, but if weird stuff happens in the other conference tournaments they might be a top seed in the NIT.
TDG: Thoughts on the All-B1G selections? Were you upset by where the coaches and media put Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson? Or did the 3rd team/HM levels feel about right to you?
Mark: I would have liked it if Paul and Richardson finished higher in the voting, but I can't honestly say they deserved to. Neither had a consistent enough body of work to actually be named second team, which was the honest ceiling we could have expected/hoped for at this point.
TDG: Which of our two teams is most deserving of the title of "B1G Underachiever" for the 2012-2013 season and why?
Mark: Underachiever of the year definitely belongs to your boys. While we were a bewildering roller coaster of insanity once conference play began, we can at least say that we improved on last year's team somehow despite losing Meyers Leonard and should improve even more as John Groce lands players that actually fit his system. That leaves the crown with Minnesota.
TDG: On a scale of 1 - AWESOMENESS DEFINED, where would you rank NCAA tournament season?
Mark: Just slightly below awesomeness defined. I'm a basketball man fourth, so while I can fully buy into March Madness, it can never truly be awesomeness defined for me. That being said, I do love the grill I purchased using all of my classmates' money thanks to the Kentucky Wildcats last year.
TDG: Do you think we see a darkhorse B1G Tourney winner this weekend?
Mark: Nope. The conference has been weird and nonsensical all season long, but I don't see anyone outside of the top four seeds winning the whole thing. We might see a team like either of ours or Iowa go on a nice run, but I don't see a darkhorse cutting down the nets.
TDG: Predictions for the BATTLE OF 8-10?
Mark: I'll go with what I told Tom earlier today. The Gophers have pretty much been the inbetween of us and the Hawkeyes this year. We're all firmly entrenched in the secondary tier of the conference, but our great OOC schedule has us in the tourney while Iowa's weak OOC has them needing to win the Big Ten Tournament to go dancing. Minnesota needs to beat us to get off the bubble, so they're going to come out hungry in what could be Mbakwe's final game (just kidding, he'll get another year somehow yet again). But that doesn't matter. This is John Groce's time of year and we're going to be playing the Hoosiers again. Illinois 77 Minnesota 65
Thanks again to Mark and be sure to avoid work by stopping by to comment in the OPEN THREAD that GN already has up and waiting for you.