Minnesota in need of big win over Ohio State at Williams this weekend

Zach Eisendrath

After letting yet another chance at a signature win go astray, the Minnesota men’s basketball team is on the brink of being eliminated from NCAA tournament discussion.

When the Gophers fell to No. 16 Purdue 65-53 Wednesday night in West Lafayette, Ind., their chances to qualify for the Big Dance went on full-fledged life support.

Pulling the plug won’t follow too far behind if Minnesota isn’t able to find a way to beat Ohio State at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena.

Unless the Gophers (17-10 overall, 7-8 Big Ten) plan on winning the Big Ten tournament in mid-March, they need to win their final three regular season games to get to the coveted 20-win mark and pick up their first couple of signature wins of the season to remain in NCAA tournament conversation.

To accomplish that feat, however, Minnesota has to go through Ohio State – which beat the Gophers 76-60 on Jan. 26 in Columbus – and No. 9 Indiana and Illinois, both of whom beat Tubby Smith’s squad at the Barn earlier this season.

A win over Ohio State (17-11, 8-7) Saturday wouldn’t solidify an NCAA tournament appearance for the Gophers, but it would go a long way in keeping their chances of moving up to fifth in the Big Ten standings alive.

The difference between being fifth and sixth in the conference standings is simple and important. The team that finishes fifth gets a first-day bye in the conference tourney, while the team seeded 6th does not.

By losing three-straight games, the fifth-seeded Buckeyes are now only one game up on the 6th-seeded Gophers entering the final regular season game at Williams.