Gophers Crush Purdue, Earn NCAA Bid

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By Mike Gallagher

Ok, so that’s speculation.  But honestly, how do you leave the Gophers out of the field of 65 now?

After squeaking out an overtime victory against Michigan State Friday and ending Purdue’s Big Ten tournament Saturday in embarrassing fashion, the Gophers have done everything it could be asked to do to come all the way back from bubble nothingness, to get an NCAA tournament bid.

Forget what New Mexico State did to Utah State tonight, upsetting them for the WAC title and most likely taking away one more bid in the bubble chaos.

It doesn’t matter that Washington managed to beat California and get two PAC-10 teams in the tournament.

It doesn’t matter that Mississippi State upset Vanderbilt yesterday and reached the SEC finals.

Forget all of the other bubble teams in the running for the final two bubble spots (Mississippi State, Rhode Island, Utah State), the Gophers are in ahead of them all.

After Washington’s upset and automatic bid over California as well as New Mexico State’s upset over Utah State, the bubble lacks more spots.

The problem for all of the bubble teams is that Minnesota and Mississippi State played phenomenal games and at this point both deserve to be in the tournament.

The other problem for bubble teams is that Houston beat UTEP to win Conference USA earlier in the day, snatching another bubble spot.

There’s a few different ways things could go on Selection Sunday to clear things up.

Assuming there are no more than two bubble spots remaining, Minnesota and Mississippi State could win their respective conference tournaments and gain automatic bids, which would leave one deserving team, mainly Illinois or Virginia Tech, out of the tournament.

One could win and that would leave one bubble spot, which Virginia Tech and the loser would be neck and neck for.

Both could lose, and things would get very interesting on the bubble, with at least one deserving team being left out.

This is the beauty of March Madness, the chaos and catastrophic mayhem caused by the streaking mid-major and average power conference teams who make a run.

With the possibility of one deserving team being left out, there’s only one way it could be the Gophers.

Should Mississippi State win the SEC championship against Kentucky tomorrow and the Gophers get blown out by Ohio State, there’s a slight possibility, with one bubble slot left with Mississippi State’s win, that the Gophers could be looked over for Virginia Tech, who was a lock until their loss today.

To clarify, even with their losses today, Utah State and UTEP should be in, with the committee only passing over 26+ win teams three times in tournament history (Utah State has 27, UTEP 26).

That leaves 1-2 bubble spots, of which the Gophers should unquestionably be a part.

Of the three games to watch yesterday, the Gophers got the desired result in two of the three (Illinois went down to Ohio State in double OT, Rhode Island got crushed by Temple).

While Mississippi State did win and faces a conference title match, the Gophers will take those results.

Minnesota certainly handled their business Saturday, destroying Purdue by 27.

The Gophers couldn’t have played a better game, dominating Purdue on both ends of the floor.

They won’t have to worry about their bubble chances later Sunday if they win early in the day in their matchup against Ohio State.

The Gophers have taken care of Ohio State once already this year, but got handled by 22 in their last matchup.

Looking at their conference tournament games, the Gophers definitely have a chance.

Ohio State went down to the wire against Michigan and had to keep unraveling the wire against Ohio State in two overtimes.  Perhaps fatigue will play a factor in the matchup and the Gophers will be able to take down the weary Buckeyes.

Devoe Joseph and Colton Iverson again played well in the Purdue game and will need to bring it one more time for the Gophers to have a chance in the Ohio State contest.

It seems like a broken record, but Lawrence Westbrook did not come to play yesterday, and eventually that will bite Minnesota.

Ralph Sampson III was back to his new-found self in the game against the Boilermakers, logging 13 points and five rebounds in limited minutes.

Granted, Purdue is not the team it used to be.  They are clearly lost on offense without Robbie Hummel and will struggle the entire NCAA tournament without him.  That being said, the tournament may not last very long for them, as they are a prime candidate for a first round upset.

For the Gophers the task is simple.  Keep the game against Ohio State close and you HAVE to be in the tournament.  Win and you’re in for sure, but that’s just icing on the cake.

The only game of importance to Minnesota today is Mississippi State @ Kentucky.  Should the Wildcats win this game, the Gophers have locked up an NCAA bid.  Should State take it down, things become a little dicey for the Gophers without a strong performance against the Buckeyes.  In their only meeting, Mississippi State won an overtime thriller 81-75, so expect this to be a tight game.

With the run the Gophers are on though, it might not matter.

Yesterday we detailed simplicity, if that’s technically possible.  Today it’s even more simple.

WIN and you’re in.

But for sure this time.

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    spending all the time sitting so close to the Gophers bench, cheerleaders, band etc. I’ve devloped a new appreciation for the school. And memorized the fight song now

  2. paulmbanks says

    I went from barely acknowledging their existence to respecting their game greatly. As the Golden Gophers played their way into the NCAA tournament this weekend, my press row seat was coincidentally always close to their bench. I even accidentally bumped into their mascot Goldy Gopher once as we crossed paths in the hallway.

    -Later I thought about how funny (albeit extremely unprofessional and extremely immature) it would have been had I then punched Goldy in the head. Because, as the Jim Carrey film “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” taught us, physical violence against mascots is always extremely hilarious.

  3. your prediction comes true, you are a hero!

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