Gophers sit on NIT bubble

Jack Satzinger

The Gophers topped Michigan State 96-90 in overtime on Thursday night for arguably their most impressive victory of the season.

An NCAA tournament appearance is highly unlikely at this point — but an NIT berth is looking probable.

That being said, if last season’s NIT field is any indication, the Gophers (17-12, 6-10 Big Ten) need to win one or both of their remaining regular season games to make the second-fiddle tournament.

There were 11 teams from Power Five conferences in last season’s NIT, including Minnesota. As the list below illustrates, each of those teams won seven or more conference games and beat at least one ranked opponent. The Gophers have won six times against Big Ten foes, and their best victories are at solid, but unranked, Iowa and Michigan State.

2014 NIT teams from Power Five conferences

 

Minnesota

20-13, 8-10 Big Ten

Key wins: vs. No. 9 Wisconsin, vs. No. 11 Ohio State, vs. No. 20 Iowa.

 

Georgia

19-13, 12-6 SEC

Key wins: at No. 21 Missouri, at LSU

 

West Virginia

17-15, 9-9 Big 12

Key wins: vs. No. 8 Kansas, vs. No. 11 Iowa State, vs. No 21 Oklahoma

 

Missouri

22-11, 9-9 SEC

Key wins: vs. No. 18 UCLA, vs. Tennessee

 

Florida State

19-13, 9-9 ACC

Key wins: vs. No. 22 Massachusetts, at Pittsburgh

 

Illinois

19-14, 7-11 Big Ten

Key wins: at No. 18 Michigan State, at No. 24 Iowa

 

LSU

19-13, 9-9 SEC

Key wins: vs. No. 11 Kentucky, vs. Arkansas

 

Utah

21-11, 9-9 Pac 12

Key wins: vs. No. 25 UCLA, vs. Colorado

 

California

19-13, 10-8 Pac 12

Key wins: vs. No. 1 Arizona, at No. 17 Oregon

 

Clemson

20-12, 10-8 ACC

Key wins: vs. No. 16 Duke, vs. NC State

 

Arkansas

21-11, 10-8 SEC

Key wins: at No. 17 Kentucky, vs. No. 13 Kentucky, vs. Minnesota

 

Minnesota’s 2015

resume

17-12, 6-10 Big Ten

Key wins: at Iowa, at
Michigan State

 

As it stands now, the Gophers are an NIT bubble team. Defeating ranked Wisconsin after a full week off would almost surely vault the Gophers into NIT territory.

Minnesota will probably be favored against Penn State next Sunday to reach seven conference victories, but there would still be the glaring omission of beating a ranked opponent.

The one Power Five team that got to the NIT last season with only seven victories, Illinois, topped both No. 18 Michigan State and No. 24 Iowa on the road.

The Big Ten is also in a down year now after losing so much talent to the NBA, which doesn’t help Minnesota’s case.

So unless the Gophers pull off the upset against Wisconsin on Thursday or beat Penn State and then win a few games in the conference tournament, they’ll be on the bubble for Selection Sunday — the NIT bubble.