A quick look at the Big Ten women's basketball standings will leave most people thinking the Gophers don't have a shot at making it to the NCAA Tournament, but four straight wins has Minnesota moving in the right direction.
The Gophers defeated Northwestern 73-64 in overtime on Sunday, marking a fourth straight win against teams positioned ahead of them in the conference standings. It was their second win over Northwestern in 11 days and they mixed in impressive wins over Indiana and Rutgers.
“We’re learning how to come together as a team. Sometimes it takes losses to do that. So this one was different. Even down four I still felt pretty good," said head coach Lindsay Whalen, via the Star Tribune.
Indiana and Rutgers were both among the teams included in Charlie Creme's ESPN NCAA Tournament bracketology last week, so those victories should appeal nicely with the selection committee.
Rebounding from a bad slump
Whalen got the Gophers off to a red-hot start with 12 straight wins to begin the season, lifting them into the top-25 poll for multiple weeks. But seven losses in their next eight games dropped them out the rankings and near the bottom of the Big Ten.
Minnesota is once again hot entering a critical final three weeks of the regular season where they face four of the top five teams in the Big Ten (excluding Penn State).
- Feb. 14 at Purdue
- Feb. 17 vs. Penn State
- Feb. 21 at #10 Maryland
- Feb. 28 at #20 Rutgers
- Mar. 3 vs. #23 Michigan State
The four straight wins might not be enough just yet to get them back in the field of 68, but doing some damage against high-class teams like Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue might be enough to get them in.
They also have an opportunity to show their worth in the Big Ten Tournament next month.
Another thing: Indiana was listed as a 10-seed in ESPN's bracketology on Feb. 4. Minnesota beat Indiana, has nearly an identical record as the Hoosiers and has more high-quality wins. If Indiana was good enough in ESPN's bracketology last week, then the Gophers should be, at the very least, on the fringe this week.