Gopher hoops: Bubble Boys


                    Our dudes aren't this enthusiastic about bubbles

This week, for the fist time in 2009, the Golden Gopher (20-8; 8-8) men's basketball team received zero votes in the Associated Press poll.  Not that they deserved any.  The G-Men, once 18th ranked upstarts, went 2-5 in February and have placed themselves in the achievable, albeit unenviable position of having to win two of their next three games to reach the NCAA's.

The last of those three will actually be the first game of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.  Two conference games remain, the first of which takes place at the Barn tomorrow night against 5th place Wisconsin.  Following that, 8th place Michigan (8-9) visits on Saturday.  The Gophers are currently 6th in the Big Ten and, based on recent history, they best not drop to 7th should they want to be a part of March Madness.

In the past six seasons, the 7th place team in the Big Ten has made the NCAA Tournament twice - although it's actually a more accurate statement to note once, as 7th place Iowa made it in 2004-05 when 6th place Ohio State was ineligible to tournament play dude to NCAA sanctions.  In 2006-07, seven Big Ten teams also qualified.

The Gophers are presently in a conference logjam; their own remaining schedule is comparable to those about them.  To wit: 4th place Penn State (9-7) finishes by hosting 3rd place Illinois before traveling to 10th place Iowa; 5th place Wisconsin (9-7) comes here and then finishes by hosting 11th place Indiana; 7th place Ohio State (8-8), against whom the Gophers split, visits Iowa and then closes at home versus 9th place Northwestern; 8th place Michigan (8-9) has just their Barn visit this weekend remaining.

The Gophers - whatever the scenario - likely need to win two games to qualify, whether that includes winning out tomorrow and Saturday or, perhaps more likely, winning one of their last two and then winning the first of their Big Ten Tournament games.  For said tourney, the top five teams get a first-round by.  Should the Gophers remain the 6th seed, that would pit them against lowly Indiana which, in a scenario alternate to winning out this week, would still get them that second win in their next three.

However the hell it happens, the club needs to get a grip on their crazy plethora of turnovers.  At present, Minnesota is second in the conference at giving away the ball with a 14.9 per game clip.  They're a scary 91st in the nation in said sad category.

Yet, despite such negativity of stat, --combined with the February slide and their painful halfcourt offense -- the Gophers are still getting enough love nationally to suggest that, should the afore-noted wins indeed occur, they'll be returning to the Big Dance.  Here's which national web voices have the G-Men In, Out, and Otherwise of the NCAA's at present:

The Bracket Project
The Bracket Matrix
Sporting News

Bracketology 101

ESPN Bracketology

In the Mix (Bubble)
Sports Illustrated