The Gophers are playing for a banner as they are participating in their first ever Big Ten Championship!
Most of us are satisfied that an NCAA Tournament bid is nearly secured, but really we are playing for more. This is actually an opportunity to earn a banner to hang in The Barn. This has been a good run but a win today would make this a GREAT run.
Can the Gophers beat all three Big Ten champs in three consecutive days? Repeat after me Gopher fans...YES WE CAN. Though it won't be easy.
Why we can't win? Evan Turner. He is outstanding and unguardable. I look forward to him as a Timberwolf next season.
Why we can win? Ohio State is playing their third game in three days. Now before you point out that we are playing our fourth game in four days remember that we go 10 deep. Ohio State goes just six, maybe seven, deep. And our bench has been outstanding in this tournament. Guys like Devron Bostick, Paul Carter, Justin Cobbs and Colten Iverson have been playing incredible. Add to that, the fact that Blake Hoffarber has had good games against Ohio State and this game may not be the slam dunk for Ohio State that everyone thinks it is.
Should be fun, might be awesome.
(PJS Update: Some pregame links) ...
ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, who has done a great job blogging the BTT Tournament,with a quick conference championship game preview.
Updated bubble watch and bracketology from ESPN. Bubble watch notes numerous times that Minnesota likely gets in and Illinois doesn't. That has to kill Illini fans, but it's the right call. Minnesota's beaten more top 50 RPI teams, has a better record against the likely NCAA field, beat Illinois on the road and is playing more consistently well down the stretch.
Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News says "Minnesota is together now."
The GopherHole's Selection Sunday, who has been very accurate predicting the at-large teams in the past, has the Gophers comfortably in and Illinois in if Mississippi State can't pull the upset against Kentucky.
Finally, something to think positively about. While Ohio State is the favorite today, they will be coming back from a double overtime game. Thad Matta's short bench meant that yesterday Evan Turner played 49 minutes. David Lighty and William Buford played 50. Jon Diebler played 42 minutes. Contrast that with Minnesota, which was able to rest players. Devoe Joseph played 22 minutes. Blake Hoffarber led the team with 26.