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Bubble Watch: Gophers on the outside looking in

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If the NCAA Tournament started today, the Minnesota Golden Gophers would likely be watching from home.

The latest bracketology from CBS Sports and ESPN has Minnesota as one of the first four teams left out of the field of 68. It's not stunning news by any means considering the Gophers stumbled down the stretch, finishing the regular season with an overall record of 19-12, and a 8-10 mark in the Big Ten Conference.

Realistically, the Gophers are close to receiving a likely bid to the NCAA Tournament, but getting to that point will probably require two wins in the Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota is the No. 7-seed and they host No. 10-seed Penn State in the first round. As ESPN's Eamonn Brennan says, Minnesota needs a win over the Nittany Lions and probably another victory in the second round against No. 2-seed Wisconsin.

The Gophers, for what it's worth, have also beaten Wisconsin on their own floor, though, that win came back when the Badgers were stumbling their way through an uncharacteristic January. (A week later, Wisconsin would lose at home to Northwestern. Still trying to figure that one out.) Handling business against Penn State on Sunday was nice, but they'll have to do it again in four days in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, and then some, if they want to get out of the cut-line mixer before Selection Sunday.

Minnesota put up 81 points in an 18-point win over Penn State in the regular season finale Sunday at Williams Arena. Amelia Rayno of the Star Tribune believes the Gophers' best bet going forward is to try outscore its opponents, rather than suffocate them defensively. In a way, head coach Richard Pitino agreed.

“When we don’t turn it over and we execute our offense I think we’re pretty hard to guard,” the first-year coach of the Gophers told Rayno.

Bottom line: If the Gophers win on Thursday they're still alive. If they lose, they're likely headed to the NIT (National Invitational Tournament).

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