Minnesota unlikely to receive NCAA berth

Charlie Creme, an ESPN analyst, has the team out of the bracket currently.

Redshirt senior Rachel Banham drives the ball against Ohio State at Williams Arena on Feb. 24.

Kathryn Chlystek, Daily File Photo

Redshirt senior Rachel Banham drives the ball against Ohio State at Williams Arena on Feb. 24.

by Kaitlin Merkel

The Gophers’ chances of hearing their name called during the NCAA tournament selection show on March 14 look slim.

 

Minnesota (19-11, 11-7 Big Ten) lost four of its last five games, including a loss in its first game of the Big Ten tournament against Northwestern.

 

The team is ranked 80th in the ratings percentage index, which factors in a team’s record and strength of schedule.

 

The late slide pushed the Gophers to the “next four out” category, which comes after “first four out,” in the latest tournament projection by Charlie Creme of ESPN.com.

 

“Most years, I don’t think they’d even climb even that high with the numbers and the way they finished. But it’s a very, very thin year,” Creme said. “Losing four of five to finish … although everyone mentions that [Ohio State] win as being a great win, and it was, but it’s still four of five to finish.”

 

The Gophers defeated the then-No. 5 Buckeyes on senior night Feb. 24, which put the team back in the tournament conversation. Minnesota appeared to fall out though after a 33-point loss to Maryland to end the regular season along with a loss to Northwestern.

 

Redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham has received plenty of national attention for her performance this season, but Creme said that won’t be enough to get Minnesota in.

 

“A lot of analysts have talked about, ‘Oh, the tournament really needs Banham and in a game that needs more attention, this is perfect,’” Creme said. “[But] it would be wholly unfair to the process.”

 

The Gophers are likely headed to the National Invitation Tournament, Creme said, which would give the program its third appearance there in the last four years. He added Minnesota has the talent to contend in the tournament if its defense, which finished last in the Big Ten, sharpens.

 

“If they can shore up with what’s been a big problem most of the season, defensively, and with somebody of Banham’s ability, I think they would have as good a chance as anybody,” Creme said. “But it’s still a tournament. You’ve still got to be able to stop people.”