Waiting Game Starts for Gophers

The Gophers couldn't knock off top-seeded Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament, so they are left to see what the NCAA selection committee thinks of them on Sunday.

For Minnesota, it's time to play the waiting game. The 48 hours following their second-round loss in the Big Ten tournament could be trying.

Depending on the expert you believe, the Gophers either clinched a bid with their victory over Northwestern Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament or missed out on one with an eight-point loss against Michigan State in the quarters Friday.

The Gophers won't know until Sunday night. As frustrating as that might be for the team and its fans, Minnesota can find some solace in the fact that it has a pretty good resume that a lot of bubble teams would love to have.

The Gophers have five wins over top-50 RPI teams, including a December win over potential No. 1 seed Louisville. All of their losses were to bubble teams. And outside of a rough February that included five straight road losses, they have a pretty good portfolio.

But only the selection committee knows what kind of teams it's looking for. Hopefully for Minnesota, a bubble team with an up and down year that included more highs than lows.

MICHIGAN STATE 64, MINNESOTA 56: Down the stretch, Minnesota couldn't find its offense and the Spartans intensified their defense in a 64-56 loss in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tourney Friday. The Gophers went scoreless for a five-minute stretch in the second half, while Michigan State launched an 8-0 run and went 6-for-8 from the free throw line in the final minute-and-a-half to clinch the win.

NOTES

  • Minnesota held off a late run by Northwestern to seize a win that probably secured the school's first NCAA Tournament bid since 2005 on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. The Wildcats stormed back to take a 49-47 lead late in the second half, but the Gophers hit 10 of their last 12 free throws to regain the momentum and take home the victory.

  • Under Tubby Smith, the Gophers are 25-2 when leading entering the final five minutes of a game.

  • Under Smith, the Gophers are 26-3 when they attempt more free throws than their opponent.

  • Devron Bostick had his second double-digit performance of the Big Ten tourney (12 points) against Michigan State Friday. If he keeps it up and the Gophers get into the NCAA tourney, he'll certainly be viewed as an X-factor, at least potentially.

  • Damian Johnson is known for his spectacular defense. But after scoring 19 points against Michigan State, Johnson said a teammate told him that he had to do more on the offensive end. And he did. When he's effective on both sides of the ball, he's arguably one of the league's best all-around players.

  • Three of Minnesota's guards failed to score against Michigan State. Even Lawrence Westbrook, who had 10 points, went 1-for-5 from the 3-point line and finished with four turnovers. Guard play is big in the NCAA tourney. The Gophers have to find a way to get better production from the perimeter.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "At that point in time, you needed a three. A two is something a little different. He hit a jump shot from way out there. I don't know the chance of that happening. That's neither here nor there. We lost the game. I decided to call a timeout. That's what I usually do." — Coach Tubby Smith, on calling the timeout that negated Lawrence Westbrook's game-tying basket against Michigan

    GAME REVIEW:
    Michigan 67, Minnesota 64
    Minnesota 66, Northwestern 53 (Big Ten tournament first round)
    Michigan State 64, Minnesota 56 (Big Ten tournament quarterfinal)

    GAME PREVIEW:
    Awaiting postseason tournament invitation.


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