Is the Gophers men's basketball team good enough to get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament?
Good enough? Sure. Qualified? Maybe.
Sunday night's 92-87 win over the 19th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes was huge for Richard Pitino's club, and it came on the heels of a buzzer-beating loss at No. 6 Michigan the previous weekend.
"It was pretty good for us to see that we can play like that," said Gophers senior forward Jordan Murphy, via ESPN. "We're really hard to guard, and we were passing the ball very well. Hopefully we just keep carrying that effort on."
Murphy had 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists while Amir Coffey scored 23 and freshman Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points.
The victory moves the Gophers into sixth place in the Big Ten with an overall record of 15-5 (5-4 in Big Ten play).
Minnesota is on the right track to be invited to the tourney, but there's still two months of work to be done. Sitting in sixth place, it's all about holding position and possibly moving up in the conference standings. The Big Ten will for sure get six teams into the big dance, and maybe as many as 10 like ESPN's Joe Lunardi projected in his latest bracketology.
Minnesota has wins over four teams Lunardi thinks are NCAA Tournament-caliber: Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Washington, not to mention the last-second loss to a potential Final Four team in Michigan.
The thing hurting Minnesota the most is their blowout loss to a bad Illinois team, whom they meet at Williams Arena again this Wednesday night. Another loss to the Illini would put a huge dent in the Gophers' chances, especially considering it leads into three straight against Big Ten powers Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Pitino's club needs to add statement wins over the top teams in the conference, and they'll have their chances in early February.