The Minnesota Golden Gophers have faltered quite a bit since starting so strongly in non-conference play this season, and that early faltering could spell bad news for the end of their season as they face a stacked deck while only 3-5 in Big 10 play. The loss to Michigan State midweek for the Gophers gave them another set-back after they managed to put a short winning streak together, but the rest of the season features five more games that could give the Gophers quite a bit of trouble.
The Gophers do boast a single win over a ranked opponent, beating eighth ranked Indiana back on January 12th, but that was in the midst of a terrible drop of form for the Hoosiers that also saw them lose their first game to Nebraska in almost a century. Past that they are 0-2 against ranked opponents, as they've lost to both Michigan schools.
Out of the 10 games left on Minnesota's schedule, half of them are against opponents who are currently in the top 25. They will face Wisconsin twice, an Indiana team that will likely be seeking revenge, Michigan State again and Ohio State, one of the best teams in the country in any conference. Even if the Golden Gophers manage to win the rest of their conference games against the unranked, an unlikely scenario unless their fortunes improve, that will be a tough group of games to emerge from unscathed. The best that the team can currently do is end 13-5, which will not be enough to win the Big 10 unless there are some amazing collapses ahead of them. Realistically it's not looking like anything above 10-8 is a possibility.
Those early losses to teams like Illinois, Iowa and Purdue look like they're going to come back to haunt Minnesota in the end. It's going to depend on some inner strength against all the ranked competition they'll face now if they want to keep their At Large bid chances alive for a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they haven't won a game since 1997 when they made a Final Four run.
For more on the Gophers check out The Daily Gopher.