The first-round game of the Big Ten tournament for Minnesota could have only hurt the Golden Gophers’ chances at making the NCAA tournament. That didn’t happen. Despite a back-and-forth game that saw No. 10 seed Penn State close the gap to three with under a minute to go, No. 7 seed Minnesota hung on and won 63-56 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Golden Gophers were led by Austin Hollins who scored 18 points. Point guard Deandre Mathieu chipped in 13 points and five assists. D.J. Newbill paced the Nittany Lions with 16 points and seven boards. Senior guard Tim Frazier added 11 points and five assists.
The win keeps the Golden Gophers squarely on the bubble as they head into their quarterfinal match up with No. 2 seed Wisconsin. By winning three of their last four games, the Golden Gophers have put themselves in a good position to make the tournament, but will need a win over the Badgers to make it official.
Despite the lack of “marquee” wins as Minnesota only has three wins over RPI Top 50 teams, the Golden Gophers feature one of the toughest schedules in college basketball. Richard Pitino‘s squad has the fifth toughest schedule in the country, which will be something worth noting for the selection committee come Sunday.
If Minnesota can get another win over Wisconsin, the committee will give the Golden Gophers a hard look. The Badgers are in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and Minnesota has already defeated them once this season. If the Golden Gophers can knock off a potential No. 1 seed once more, they should have the opportunity to dance.