NCAA Basketball Minnesota Golden Gophers

Bubble Watch: 5 Reasons Why Minnesota Won’t Make The Big Dance

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Bubble Watch: 5 Reasons Why Minnesota Won't Make The Big Dance

Bubble Watch Minnesota
Brad Rempel - USATODAY Sports

If you follow along with the “science” known as Bracketology, you will notice the Minnesota Golden Gophers are among the teams that are currently projected by many to be included in the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68. However, there is plenty of time left in the season, and a lot can still happen. This means a team like Minnesota that would just barely squeak into the tournament could still play its way out of the tournament.

To Minnesota’s credit, they have made a smooth coaching transition this season from Tubby Smith, who was fired at the end of last season, to Richard Pitino, who is in just his second season as a head coach after coaching Florida International last season. The Gophers have managed to hold their own in the Big Ten, one of the best conferences in the country. After making the tournament last year as an 11 seed and pulling a first round upset over UCLA before losing to Florida, Minnesota is in a similar position this season which should be considered a positive step forward for the program.

However, the Golden Gophers still have to close out the season strong in order to secure their spot in the field of 68, and that could prove to be easier said than done. As a team on the bubble, an argument can be made that the Gophers haven’t earned a spot in the tournament yet, and here are five reasons why Minnesota will end up getting left out of The Big Dance.

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5. No Impressive Non-Conference Wins

No Impressive Non-Conference Wins
Brace Hemmelgarn - USATODAY Sports

The Golden Gophers had a shot at knocking off Syracuse early in the season, but they came up short. Now their most impressive wins outside the conference are against Florida State and Richmond. Those aren’t exactly going to impress the selection committee and will end up hurting Minnesota’s chances of getting into the tournament when compared to other teams on the bubble.

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4. Not Getting Enough From Austin Hollins

Not Getting Enough From Austin Hollins
Jesse Johnson - USATODAY Sports

He’s had a decent season, but Austin Hollins is not having the kind of senior season most thought he would have. He’s not giving Minnesota the consistent third scorer that they need with eight single-digit scoring games in conference play, including three of the last four. Compared to last year, his assists are down, his turnovers are up and his three-point shooting percentage is way down. Unless he starts to play better, he’s going to prevent Minnesota from winning the games it needs to win in order to become a tournament team.

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3. Inexperienced Coach

Inexperienced Coach
Mary Langenfield - USATODAY Sports

He may be the son of a Hall of Famer, but Richard Pitino is still in his second year as a head coach. Being at the helm of Florida International may have not adequately prepared him for a stretch run in the Big Ten. It was one thing for the Gophers to squeeze into the tournament last year with veteran Tubby Smith in charge, but Pitino may not be ready to lead a team into the tournament when there’s so much at stake in every game late in the season.

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2. February Slump

February Slump
Bradley Leeb - USATODAY Sports

Minnesota has lost five of their last seven games going back to the end of January, and that's not a good way to impress the selection committee. They play in a tough conference, but three of their losses this month have come against teams below them in the standings. This not only gives them 10 losses on the season heading into the final few weeks of the regular season, but it also gives them bad losses on their resume that will hurt them on Selection Sunday.

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1. Tough Schedule Down The Stretch

Tough Schedule Down The Stretch
Brace Hemmelgarn - USATODAY Sports

The Gophers play three of their final four games against ranked teams with two of those games against ranked teams coming on the road. That’s not exactly a favorable schedule for a team that needs to finish the season strong if they’re going to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Considering their below .500 record in conference play, the Gophers will need to win at least three of those final four games, especially since they’ll play another ranked team in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. This schedule will make it hard to finish the season strong.