Selection Sunday is 17 days away (Mar. 12) and the Gophers can rest easy knowing there's almost nothing they can do to knock themselves out of the projected NCAA Tournament.
"We’re a good team,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said after beating Maryland Wednesday night. "It’s nice now we can put the tournament talk to bed. We had put that to bed, but people kept talking about it. We’ve got a lot of quality wins. We’ve got a lot of tough kids. We’ve got no ego, and we’ve got great chemistry."
Minnesota's win over No. 24 Maryland was their sixth straight overall, pushing their record to 21-7 and 9-6 in the Big Ten. The reason they're considered a lock for the tourney is because they can't finish worse than .500 in the Big Ten, which usually translates to a tourney ticket.
How high can they climb?
The Gophers have three regular season games to go: at home against Penn State and Nebraska and on the road against Wisconsin.
If they win all three they'll finish with 12 conference wins for the first time since the 1981-82 Jim Dutcher-led Gophers won 14 Big Ten games (the 1996-97 team was erased from official record books).
Minnesota has reached double digit conference victories just twice since 1982 (excluding the vacated years of 1993-99).
If the Big Ten tournament started today Minnesota would be seeded fourth. The top four seeds get a bye all the way to the conference tourney quarterfinals, meaning they'd be three wins from a Big Ten tournament title.
The last four Big Ten tournament champs have received a 4-seed or better.
- 2016: Michigan State, 2-seed
- 2015: Wisconsin, 1-seed
- 2014: Michigan State, 4-seed
- 2013: Ohio State, 2-seed
There are a lot of variables to consider, but this is a solid ballpark of where Minnesota could land if they win the conference tournament.