After Iowa win, ESPN's Lunardi has Gophers as one of 'last four in'
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
The Minnesota Golden Gophers have a losing record in the Big Ten, yet ESPN's bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Wednesday that he moved the squad into his 'last four in' section for his latest NCAA Tournament projection.
The Gophers (18-11, 7-9 Big Ten) beat No. 20 Iowa off a season-high point outburst at Williams Arena on Tuesday night. Senior guard Austin Hollins burst out of his shooting slump, which helped lift the Gophers out of their offensive funk to the tune of 95 points. Hollins scored a career-high 27 points. The Gophers hadn't scored more than 54 points in a game since their Feb. 13 loss at Wisconsin.
"I moved them back in after last night into the last-four-in group. Obviously it's a tenuous position when you're still below .500 in the league. This is going to be a year where sub .500 teams make it, almost certainly from the Big 12, possibly from the Big Ten as well," Lunardi said via a transcript from ESPNMediaZone.com.
"It would sure be a lot easier to feel good about Minnesota's chances if they could find a way to win these last two games and go into the conference tournament at 9-9 instead of 8-10. I think 9-9 would get them into the tournament almost regardless of what happens in the conference tournament. 8-10 is going to put them in a pretty nervous position sitting there with a lot of other teams that look just like them."
Obviously Lunardi deals in projections and not what the NCAA Tournament selection committee will ultimately decide in March. The Gophers travel to No. 16 Michigan on Saturday and close out their Big Ten schedule at home against Penn State on March 9.
The Gophers' Big Dance resume includes wins over three ranked teams, including then-No. 11 Ohio State and then-No. 9 Wisconsin. The Gophers have blemishes in the form of losses at home to Northwestern and Illinois, as well as a triple-overtime loss at Purdue.