Michigan game pivotal for bracketology equation

A road win means a lot to a bubble team, and a loss to slumping Michigan would hurt.

Bob Wothe

Getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament isn’t much different from applying for a job.

Just like job applicants, hopeful teams are rigorously reviewed by a committee. There’s no true interview process, but the entire regular season serves as a team’s resume.

And for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team, along with all of the other teams on the early “bubble,” February is resume-building month.

“To make the tournament, we’ve got to win at home and hopefully pull off a few road wins, too,” freshman guard Rico Tucker said. “If we get back to our defensive principles, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

If Minnesota (14-6, 4-3 Big Ten) doesn’t win at Michigan (12-9, 3-4) at 7 p.m. today, its members will have their work cut out for them.

Most bracketologists – or NCAA Tournament bracket analysts – have the Gophers on the cusp of the 65-team field.

In a survey of three of the most prominent bracketologists, two have Minnesota in the field as a No. 9 seed, while the other has the Gophers as the last team left out.

The reason: The Gophers still lack a signature win.

“You always want to try to get that big win,” senior captain Brent Lawson said. “You know the committee is looking for something that will catch their eye.”

Unfortunately for the Gophers, the Wolverines don’t quite fill that void. Michigan has lost four straight – a streak punctuated by an 84-55 drubbing Sunday at the hands of Purdue, which had been 0-6 in the Big Ten.

The Wolverines will also be without point guard Daniel Horton for the third-straight game.

And, despite all of that, it’s still a Big Ten road game against a team that is 10-2 at home this season.

“There are no easy games in this conference, especially on the road,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “This team can’t point to any game and say, ‘We can win that one,’ because we could lose every game from here on out.”

Though it remains to be seen whether that attitude will get the Gophers into the NCAA Tournament, their current prospects are far better than most would have ventured to guess at the start of the season.

And while a win over the Wolverines isn’t the kind of signature the Gophers would like to have at the top of their application, a loss might be an absolute resume-killer.

“We’ve just got to stay within ourselves, no matter what they throw at us,” Lawson said. “Our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament, and the road wins are always crucial to have on your resume.”

Mortimer wins award

Minnesota men’s swimming and diving senior Justin Mortimer was named Big Ten swimmer of the week Tuesday for the second time this season.

Mortimer won the 1,000, 500 and 200 freestyles and the 400 individual medley in Saturday’s triple dual at Purdue.

Roehrig honored too

Minnesota women’s track and field freshman Liz Roehrig earned Big Ten athlete of the week honors Tuesday.

Roehrig provisionally qualified for NCAAs by setting a school record in the pentathlon with 3,891 points Saturday at the Northern Iowa Invitational.

She passed Apasha Blocker’s mark of 3,715, set in 1996.