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The pressure is on as the Gophers open Big Ten tourney play

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There's no guarantee that if the Gophers beat Penn State tonight they'll be invited to the NCAA Tournament, but it's a stone-cold fact that a loss will burst their bubble and kill their tournament hopes.

It's the Gophers against the Nittany Lions in the opening-round of the Big Ten Conference Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at 5:30 p.m.

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports believes Minnesota will need one "quality win" in the tournament to ensure an invitation to the big dance.

In the Big Ten, Minnesota is trying to fight its way back over the cut line. That will require at least one quality win in the conference tournament. The Gophers will have to beat Penn State for the second time in a week to get that opportunity.

Palm told the Star Tribune that Minnesota might need as many as three wins in the conference tournament to get in. Gophers head coach Richard Pitino's reaction was priceless: “Jerry Palm is out of his mind if he thinks we have to win three games to go to the NCAA tournament," he said.

Minnesota is 2-0 against Penn State this season, having won on the road, 68-65, and at home in the regular season finale on Sunday, 81-63. A third victory would send the Gophers to the second round where they would meet the No. 2-seeded Wisconsin Badgers.

The pressure is on.

“I just love it,” Gophers guard Andre Hollins said of playoff basketball. “The lights are on. It’s win or go home. And I don’t want to go home. I want to win, I want to keep winning. It’s another opportunity to show the NCAA committee, show ourselves, show our fans, show Minnesota that we can go out and compete with anybody and win.”

Regardless of what happens, From The Barn says the Gophers have already exceeded expectations this season. A trip to the tournament will only shatter those expectations. Pitino agrees, according to CBS Minnesota.

"If you’d told me at the beginning of the season we could maybe win a game or two, be in the NCAA tournament with returning 48 percent of our scoring, a lot of brand new guys, a lot of guys who have never played in these type of situations,” Pitino said, “I’d say, ‘Where do I sign up?'"

Here's the full tournament bracket.

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