Thursday, February 21, 2013
Can the Gophers get back on track?
By Luke Lapinski
Minnesota began the 2010-11 season 11-1, before ultimately falling apart in Big Ten play (6-12) and missing the NCAA Tournament. Last year, history repeated itself as the Gophers jumped out to an impressive 12-1 mark, then went just 6-12 in conference play and missed out on the Big Dance for the second straight time. This season? They surged through the non-conference schedule to the tune of a 12-1 record. And the wheels are coming off against their league rivals again.
Following last night's loss at No. 18 Ohio State, Tubby Smith's squad is now 6-8 in the Big Ten this year. What's worse, they've dropped eight of their last 11. But all is not lost just yet for Minnesota. Their BPI is currently 22, their RPI is 15 and their strength of schedule ranks behind only Duke right now.
It's hard to fault a team for stumbling against that level of competition. And, naturally, the Gophers welcome No. 1 Indiana to town next. At the same time though, the NCAA Tournament is only going to feature top end teams. Smith's group figures to get there -- barring a complete meltdown against Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue down the stretch. But they'll be much more of a factor in March if they can start experiencing the feeling of winning again soon, rather than backing into the postseason.