Will Minnesota Get into the Big Dance? Will They Be Able to Stick Around?
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With two and a half weeks to go before the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, teams are still scrambling to get wins and move up in the bracket.
But for teams like Minnesota, it is not about moving up right now: it is about closing out the season strongly and ensuring they get into the Big Dance.
Coming into the final days of February, the Gophers were seeded on the 12 line in the latest ESPN Bracketology, as one of the last four teams in the tournament. Minnesota was just two lines above the cut off, meaning its season could go either way over the coming two weeks.
Win their next three games against teams below them in the Big Ten standings, and maybe even beat Rutgers on the final day of the regular season, and the strength of the conference all season (four teams in the current top 10, and three in the top five) could see the Gophers heading to Indianapolis next month for the first Big Dance in two years.
But lose a couple of those games, and then go out early in the Big Ten Tournament, and it could be the NIT for Minnesota.
Realistically, though, with so many better teams in the tournament, what would be a good run for the Gophers if they do get in the bracket? Depending on their seed, this team could do well.
Remember, they are battle tested this year, and even at 13-10 coming into the February 25 game with Northwestern, there are not too many teams that have better Quadrant 1 wins. Minnesota has already beaten Iowa (top 10), Michigan State, Ohio State (top five), Purdue (top 25), and the big one, Michigan (top five). That 75-57 blowout win over the Wolverines, which was their only loss of the season, might be the one that takes Minnesota into the bracket.
IF, and it is a big if, the Gophers win three of the next four games and/or make a run in the Big Ten Tournament.
As a 12 seed, where they are slotted now, this team could win two games before getting one of the top seeds. But if Minnesota managed to slide up to a 11 or a 10 seed, this team could really do some damage in whatever bracket it is placed. The strength of schedule cannot be stressed enough: this team could make a deep run.
Of course, if they play like they did against Illinois on February 20, in a 94-63 drubbing, the Gophers could be one and done.
If you are looking for a team or two outside of the two obvious teams (Baylor and Gonzaga) and the Big Ten, look at Florida State (odds of +2500) and Villanova (odds of +1500). Both are going to be top two seeds (probably), and the winner of this tournament has come from the top two lines 27 of the last 35 years.
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