Teams in the middle of the Big Ten standings are throwing elbows for a chance to get into the 2014 NCAA tournament. The Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-11, 6-9) took a serious shot to the jaw Saturday courtesy of the No. 24 Ohio State Buckeyes (22-6, 9-6). The Golden Gophers could do no wrong during the first half leading 28-16 at the break. Ohio State then outscored its host 46-18 when the teams took back to the floor.
The Buckeyes aren’t the only bunch happy about the dominating second half performance. The Nebraska Cornhuskers have an opportunity to slip past Goldy and crew to take their place as one of the final Big Ten members to earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The Minnesota faithful now become fans of the Purdue Boilermakers who’ve already bested the Cornhuskers once this year. Unfortunately for Purdue, they’ll be going up against a red hot Husker squad on their home court who have won six of their last seven games.
The bad news keeps coming for the Golden Gophers regarding the Cornhuskers’ Sunday tilt. Walter Pitchford, one of Nebraska’s leading scorers, will see action after being injured during the Big Red’s game against the Penn State Nittany Lions. With only a bone bruise, Pitchford should be able to play through the pain.
Even if the Cornhuskers win, Minnesota can make a statement despite its two-game losing streak. The Golden Gophers face the No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes, No. 20 Michigan Wolverines and Penn State to finish the regular season. However, winning all three of those matchups seems about as likely as being outscored 46-18 in one half of basketball. Once the Big Ten tournament begins, it’s probable that nothing short of a semifinal appearance will beef up Minnesota’s resume enough to go dancing with the big boys.
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