Bracket projects Gophers as an 8

Minnesota will find out its NCAA tournament fate on Monday night.

Matt Greenstein

Selection Monday is less than a week away, and Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings is confident her team will appear on the bracket.

“We feel very secure in getting an NCAA bid,” Stollings said after Minnesota’s loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. “You never really know until selection Monday, and we realize that. But we feel that our tournament resume is extremely solid with the 23 wins, where our RPI is.”

The Gophers are a No. 8 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament in ESPN women’s basketball bracketologist Charlie Creme’s latest bracket.

Creme has the Gophers facing a No. 9-seed, Seton Hall, in Storrs, Conn., in the Albany region of the tournament.

If the Gophers advance to the tournament’s second round, they would most likely face No. 1 seed University of Connecticut, according to Creme’s bracket.

The Huskies only have one loss on the season, which came at the hands of then-No. 6 Stanford in overtime. Connecticut has defeated two of the other three No. 1 seeds in Creme’s bracket this season.

“I think what we have to do is label [Connecticut] as the prohibitive favorite,” Creme said. “We kind of know the matchups of the best teams, and we already know what those results were. So we can concretely say that they’re the favorite.”

Minnesota is coming off a third-round exit from the Big Ten tournament, and all of its players would be making their NCAA tournament debut.

But inexperience shouldn’t be a worry for the team, Creme said.

“The nice thing about the NCAA tournament, especially for a team like Minnesota, is that they get a chance to hit the reset button,” Creme said. “The Big Ten tournament didn’t provide the run or the success they’d hoped, but they get another chance. It’s a clean slate for everyone. That was their first experience in a one-and-done type play. Now they’ve got that out of their system and a little experience with it.”

One of the Gophers looking forward to late March is senior Shae Kelley.

The forward, a transfer from Old Dominion, lost in the second round of the WNIT last season with the Monarchs.

From her first taste of the Big Ten tournament, Kelley learned some valuable lessons the team can carry with it the rest of the postseason.

“Just going forward into the NCAA tournament, we just [have to] come out with that hunger to win,” Kelley said after the team’s loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. “And I think that’s what we’ll be focusing on these next two weeks. I believe in my team, and they believe in me. I think we’ll be fine going forward.”

 

Ben Gotz contributed to this report.