The Minnesota Golden Gophers needed this game in order to have any realistic chance of making the NCAA Tournament that starts in mid-March. Now, barring a miracle run in the Big Ten's post-season tournament, Gopher fans can now start making plans to watch NIT games at a location near them.
The Gophers, who held a 62-59 lead with three minutes to play, got outscored 11-1 from that point on to fall to the Wolverines by a score of 70-63 at the Barn this afternoon. The loss drops the Gophers to 17-11 overall, 6-10 in the Big Ten conference, and dashed any real hopes the team had of making the field of 6465 68 for this year's Big Dance.
Blake Hoffarber and Trevor Mbakwe led the way for the Gophers with 18 points each, with Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampson III chipping in with eight each. Tim Hardaway, Jr. played like a 6-foot-5 version of his father, putting in 22 points for the Wolverines while drilling five-of-eight three pointers.
After defeating Northwestern back on January 26, the Gophers were 16-4 and riding high towards a pretty high seed in the NCAA Tournament. After today's loss, they're 17-11 and are pretty much destined for the NIT. They have a trip to Northwestern on Wednesday and their home finale on March 6 against Penn State to prepare themselves for the Big Ten tournament.
After this week's devastating loss to the Michigan State Spartans, the Minnesota Golden Gophers face an uphill battle to get into the NCAA Basketball Tournament. They probably need to win their next three games, and even that might not be enough to get the job done.
Their quest begins today against the Michigan Wolverines, a team that the Gophers beat 69-64 in Ann Arbor back on January 22. The Wolverines are 17-12 overall, and 7-9 in the Big Ten. The Gophers, on the other hand, are 17-10 overall and 6-9 in the Big Ten.
The game in Ann Arbor a month ago was the game where the Gophers lost point guard Al Nolen to a foot injury, and is what many point to as the time that the Gophers' season started to fall apart. At that time, they were ranked in the Top 15 in both polls, but have been plummeting ever since then.
I'm sure we'll see the zone again today as Michigan has a couple high scoring guards that we'd be unlikely to defend well. As was the case before with Michigan they come down to whether or not they are hitting their threes. They don't have great shot selection but they take plenty. If they are hitting we'll be in major trouble. They attempted 35 threes last time around making 12 of them. Conversely we attempted just eight threes.
Once again we absolutely need to establish our identity. That obviously is owning the paint possession after possession. Don't quit with the plan. Even if Michigan does something special to take away Mbakwe or Sampson, we still can assert our will and pound the paint anyway. Mbakwe is greater than any frontcourt player Michigan can offer. Get him the ball.
No KenPom stats today, not because I'm lazy but because they are completely irrelevant today. If this team is going to win any more games it will have to be with some passion, desire and effort. All of which have been lacking at times over the last seven games.
A must win? YES. Can we win it? YES WE CAN. Will we? I don't know if we have the mental toughness to get it done but this afternoon would be a good time to show it.
Yes, today certainly qualifies as a "must win" game. A win today means that the Gophers can still have aspirations for March Madness. . .a loss means that they can start making plans for the NIT.
You'll be able to watch the game on the Big Ten Network, listen to it on WCCO-AM 830, or jump into the Game Thread at The Daily Gopher.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers were facing a must-win game this evening when they hosted the Michigan State Spartans at the Barn tonight, but they allowed the Spartans to close the game with a 14-1 run in the final 4:31 of the ball game. As a result, the Gophers fell to Michigan State by a score of 53-48.
The Gophers had a chance late after two free throws by Michigan State's Keith Appling made the score 50-48. Trevor Mbakwe inbounded the ball to freshman guard Chip Armelin, who lost his defender while driving to the hoop. However, rather than continuing towards the basket, Armelin inexplicably stepped back behind the three-point line and launched a jumper that came up short. Michigan State collected the rebound, and converted three out of four free throws for the final margin of victory.
Guard Kalin Lucas led all scorers with 18 points for the Spartans, who improved to 16-11 overall and 8-7 in the Big Ten. Mbakwe paced the Gophers with 13, and Armelin chipped in with 12. Blake Hoffarber had an awful night shooting, hitting only one out of eight from the field and finishing with five points.
The loss drops the Gophers to 17-10 overall and 6-9 in the Big Ten. At this point, it looks like the Gophers might have to run the table in their final three Big Ten games (and possibly have a good showing in the Big Ten Tournament) to get into the big dance, as that would lift them to a .500 record in the conference and give them 20 wins on the season. It would be tough to deny them entrance into the tournament if they reached those marks.
With the way the Gophers have looked since the loss of point guard Al Nolen, it's also very hard to see that happening, even if the Gophers' next three games all appear to be winnable.
For the latest discussion about this game and all other things pertaining to the Golden Gophers, be sure to check out The Daily Gopher.
Two Big Ten teams that are firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble at this point will get together this evening in Minneapolis, as the Michigan State Spartans come to town to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Spartans are coming off of an impressive win against Illinois, a win that evened their Big Ten conference record at 7-7. The Gophers, on the other hand, are coming off of a tough loss to Penn State on Saturday, 66-63, that dropped them to 6-8 in the conference.
This is the second meeting of the year between these two teams. The Spartans emerged victorious back on New Year's Eve in East Lansing by a score of 71-62.
Both of these teams need a victory this evening to bolster their hopes of reaching the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which will take place starting next month. It should be an interesting one tonight in Minneapolis, and you can watch the action on the Big Ten Network starting at 8:00 PM Central time.
For a more extensive preview of tonight's action, be sure to check out our friends at The Daily Gopher.