That popping sound heard around the state of Minnesota Saturday night was the Golden Gophers' NCAA Tournament bubble bursting.
If Selection Sunday was this weekend, the Gophers would be lucky to hear their name called into the big dance. The slumping Gophers watched a 10-point halftime lead evaporate and turn into an ominous 18-point loss at Ohio State. The final score was 64-46.
Richard Pitino's team was outscored 46-18 in the second half, a half that saw the Buckeyes shoot 56.7 percent from the field. The Buckeyes shot 17-30 in the second half while the Gophers were a sloppy 7-24.
After starting the season 15-6 overall and 4-3 in the conference, the once upstart Gophers are now 17-11 overall and 6-9 in the Big Ten. The slumping Gophers have lost 6 of 8 games and are now seemingly on the outside looking in at a possible NCAA Tournament bid.
With just three games left on the conference schedule, Minnesota may need to win out to reach the magic number of nine Big Ten victories to reach the tourney. The final three games won't be easier, either. They host No. 15 Iowa on Tuesday, travel to No. 20 Michigan on March 1 and close the regular season at home against Penn State on March 8.
Wins over the two remaining ranked opponents on the schedule could give Minnesota an outside chance at making the field of 68, according to the Pioneer Press.