They started the season off very well, winning fifteen of their first sixteen games. They got all the way up to no. 8 in the country in early January, before going in to free fall. Minnesota has won just three games since January 9th, and have lost eight. Their only wins were not very impressive either, knocking off relatively weak squads, Iowa, Nebraska and an impressive, sloppy overtime win over Wisconsin in overtime.
Now, the Gophers are moving precariously close to being a legitimate bubble team, with worries on if they will get a bid on selection Sunday. They have dropped from a top ten team in the country to an 11 seed, the lowest of any Big Ten team, according to Joe Lunardi of ESPN.
A team that has lost eight of eleven games is not attractive at all to the selection committee. Minnesota has four games remaining on their schedule. Their last three games are relatively easy: Penn State, at Nebraska and at Purdue. Obviously for a team struggling as much as Minnesota no game is easy, but these are as easy of opponents as a team can get in the Big Ten.
But before they get to the final three game stretch, Minnesota hosts no. 1 Indiana tonight.
The game is a huge opportunity for the Gophers, as a win over the top team in the country will guarantee them a spot in the tourney.
Fortunately for Minnesota’s tournament chances, they have a terrific RPI (17) and the best strength of schedule in the country. Minnesota also is 11-8 against RPI top 100 teams, which really helps their case.
At this point though, Minnesota needs to win games. If they win tonight, they are in. If they lose however, they face a situation with a possibility of missing the tournament. In their final three games, Minnesota should be the favorite, but for a team that after tonight may have lost nine of twelve, there are no freebies.
If they lose three of their last four, they will be in legitimate danger of falling down on to the bubble. There could be a lot of pressure on the Gophers when they arrive in Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament on March 14th, as a season full of promise has quickly gone downhill. But again, a win tonight against Indiana will end any concerns.