A late lead, several crucial turnovers and a major scoring drought to end the game put the nail in the coffin for the Gophers on Sunday against Iowa and severely impeded their path to the NCAA Tournament. It was a gut-punch of a loss in a winnable game at home against a good, but beatable opponent. More importantly, it was a crucial opportunity for Minnesota who is in desperate need of conference wins, and they let the win slip through fingers after being largely in control for most of the second half.
Yes, the Gophers are playing one of the hardest schedules in the country, but they are also not winning any of the games. And at the end of the day the opportunity to notch enough wins to be in consideration on Selection Sunday is fading, and their path to the tournament is now razor thin.
Six regular season games remain. Depending on who you ask Minnesota needs anywhere between four and five wins down the stretch, plus a game or two in the conference tournament. That’s a lot, especially considering they still face Indiana twice, Wisconsin and Maryland. Yikes.
The comeback hopefully begins on Wednesday against Indiana, which is one of the more winnable games of the bunch. The Hoosiers have lost five of six and are reeling and, like the Gophers, are firmly on the bubble as the season winds down.
Indiana Hoosiers (6-8, 16-9)
Date and Time:
Wednesday, Feb. 19 @ 8 p.m. CT
Tell me more about the opponent.
Indiana is falling apart, or so it seems. They are tied with the Gophers in the Big Ten standings, having lost five out of their last six games, though many pundits have them still as IN for the NCAA Tournament or in the first four out. They’ve played pretty poorly away from home, with their only win coming against Nebraska in Lincoln. To make matters worse, they are in the middle of a grueling stretch of four games out of five on the road, and just got doused in Ann Arbor by 24 points.
They are led by Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is a four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and leads the team with 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He is tied for the freshman lead in scoring among Big Ten players. The Hoosiers are also really good at getting to the line, leading the Big Ten and ranking 29th in the country in free throw attempts.
The Gophers have got to be hungry for a win at this point. They get a vulnerable conference opponent at home and at night. The Iowa loss stings, but the time is now to right the ship and at least get in position to rattle off a few wins. If they can’t pull this one off it’s hard to even see them as a true tournament team, to be honest.
In true Gopher fashion, I think they string us along for a bit longer, taking down Indiana by 7.