March Madness is nearly here. In three weeks the Big Ten men's basketball tournament begins and in exactly 30 days the NCAA Tournament gets started.
Where the Gophers could land in the tournament is the million dollar question. A strong finish and a deep run in the conference tournament could launch them into Wisconsin and Purdue territory – and maybe even to the second-best seed in school history.
The 1997 Final Four team that was deleted from the history books was a No. 1 seed. The closest any Gopher team has come to that were the sixth-seeded teams of 1990 and 1994.
- 2013: 11-seed
- 2010: 11-seed
- 2009: 10-seed
- 2005: 8-seed
- 1999: 7-seed
- 1997: 1-seed
- 1995: 8-seed
- 1994: 6-seed
- 1990: 6-seed
- 1989: 11-seed
What the Gophers have going for them
- Top 25 RPI (21)
- Top 15 SOS (15)
- Top 50 RPI wins over Purdue, Northwestern, Texas-Arlington, Arkansas
- Worst loss is against RPI No. 62 Penn State
- Good loss against RPI No. 10 Florida State
Palm notes that this year's selection committee is putting extra emphasis on strength of schedule and RPI, meaning Minnesota's in a good position with a chance to improve if they finish strong.
Gophers remaining schedule
- Feb. 15 - vs. Indiana (RPI 87)
- Feb. 19 - vs. Michigan (RPI 61)
- Feb. 22 - at Maryland (RPI 23)
- Feb. 26 - vs. Penn State (RPI 65)
- Mar. 2 - vs. Nebraska (RPI 83)
- Mar. 5 - at Wisconsin (RPI 24)
Even though Minnesota appears to be in good standing with the selection committee, the final six regular season games are difficult.
Indiana is banged up but extremely talented; Michigan beat Michigan State by 29 last week; Maryland and Wisconsin are probably the two best teams in the Big Ten; Nebraska showed how dangerous it can be with a win over Purdue two weeks ago; Penn State has already beaten the Gophers.
Only seven Big Ten teams will probably make it, like Palm and Lunardi currently project, so a poor finish coupled with a hot streak from Iowa or another team just below Minnesota could spell disaster.
Based on Lunardi and Palm's current projections, the selection committee sees Minnesota as the fifth-best Big Ten tourney team.
- Purdue: 4-seed
- Wisconsin: 5-seed
- Maryland: 6-seed
- Northwestern: 7-seed
- Minnesota: 8-seed ESPN, 7-seed CBS
- Michigan State: 10-seed
- Michigan: 11-seed ESPN, 10-seed CBS
That's why this week's home game against Michigan might be the biggest of the season for Minnesota.
Minnesota is essentially a lock to get in as long as they win at least three of their final six games, putting them at 9-9 in the Big Ten.
They can go much higher than a middle seed if they take care of business at Williams Arena and push deep into the conference tournament.