Lunardi: Gophers not in the dance, but Big Ten teams don't want to face them


ESPN's NCAA Tournament "expert" Joe Lunardi doesn't have the Gophers men's basketball team in the NCAA Tournament, he doesn't have them on the bubble, but after three straight victories and four wins in their last five games, he is starting to take note.

In Lunardi's latest "Bracketology," he says seven Big Ten teams will make the "Big Dance," but Minnesota isn't one of them.

Minnesota beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa on Thursday night and Lunardi notes that the Gophers are a team no one in the conference really wants to see on their schedule.

"The Gophers, meanwhile, are quietly becoming the team no one wants to play. After an 0-5 start in the Big Ten, they learned how to close games. Six of their league losses were by five or fewer points, which matched a similar number of heartbreaks during the 1983-84 season.

Minnesota is currently on a three-game win streak and has won four of its past five. The Gophers might have dug a hole too deep to build an at-large NCAA resume. At the least, they've emerged as a team that can ruin an opponent's postseason hopes."

Minnesota heads into Sunday's game with Indiana at 16-9 on the season, but 5-7 in the Big Ten, the exact same record they held at this point, last season. Despite the identical marks, the Star Tribune's Michael Rand notes there are a lot more complaints about this year's team.

There still might be time for the Gophers to make a run, but it won't be easy.

With two games with Big Ten leader Wisconsin remaining and road games against the Hoosiers and Michigan State on the schedule, Minnesota faces a big challenge.

But victories over the Badgers, Hoosiers and Spartans could help build their resume.

The Gophers do have a bit of history working against them as well – they have never qualified for the tournament when starting 0-5 or worse in the Big Ten.

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