This fairy tale should end at the Big Dance

Aaron Blake

On Monday, Indiana coach Mike Davis all but said his team should be chosen ahead of Minnesota for the NCAA Tournament, citing the fact that it won the tie-breaker for the fourth seed during the weekend in Chicago.

Apparently, nonconference play, in which the Hoosiers were a stellar 5-6 and the Gophers were 10-3, shouldn’t count if it doesn’t help your case.

The irony of Davis’ comments runs thick. His team shares a name with the immortal basketball underdog story, yet he suggests the 20-win Hickory Gophers aren’t as qualified as his powerhouse program, which finished with its second-worst record (15-12) since the year before Bob Knight showed up.

Rest easy, though. The NCAA Selection Committee isn’t likely to dismiss the accomplishments of a team some said would go

0-16 in the Big Ten.

Or, at least, it better not.

Speculation has it that a blowout loss today, coupled with a few more surprises, could potentially pop the Gophers’ bubble. And that seems feasible.

But regardless of whether Minnesota loses to Indiana today, the Gophers should get a spot even if the Hoosiers don’t.

In an age when the college game is passed up more and more by its potential messiahs (read: LeBron James), the NCAA needs to harness teams like the Gophers, who show what is still right with college sports.

Hard work and unselfishness are what set the college game apart from the NBA, and Minnesota has embodied those qualities. More than that – it has ridden those virtues to success.

And if nothing else, the Selection Committee members have got to be suckers for a good story.

The Hoosiers have several factors working for them, including a much higher strength-of-schedule ranking than Minnesota (19th to 70th), a better signature win (No. 9 Michigan State) and the strongest finish in the Big Ten.

But the Gophers have 20 overall wins, 10 Big Ten wins and drama, which feeds the March Madness beast.

Can you imagine the unsung group of no-names knocking off a third seed to make the Sweet 16? By the time it ended, we’d be sick of the commentators talking about how some people threw around that whole 0-16 prediction.

But, at the same time, we have to realize 0-16 is a major card in the Gophers’ hand.

So forget the nonconference schedule if you like.

This team should be in that tournament either way.