Marcus Fuller’s projection: No. 6 seed.
The Gophers will find out Sunday just how much the NCAA tournament selection committee respects the Big Ten when their seeding is announced.
The first signs of the conference not being thought of highly by the committee came when NCAA tournament selection chairman Mark Hollis released the top 16 seeds on Feb. 11 without any Big Ten team listed.
That was before Wisconsin went on a slide to end the regular season. That was before Maryland also started a late-season collapse as well before turning it around. Big Ten outright champion Purdue wasn’t even a top-15 team at the time, either.
The Boilermakers and Terrapins got knocked out in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Friday, so that might do even more damage to the conference’s image. Purdue was projected as a No. 4 seed by both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBSports’s Jerry Palm on Saturday. Maryland was a No. 7 seed. Palm said no Big Ten team is likely to be seeded higher than fourth.
Wisconsin and Michigan were predicted No. 6 and No. 7 seeds as of Saturday, but they could move up based on Sunday’s championship game.
“I’d say we deserve a 1 seed,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino joked Saturday. “Wherever they put us, whoever we play, we’re going to be really, really excited. We’ll be proud of what we accomplished this year and be excited about moving forward.”
Gophers players said Saturday they don’t care about their opponent, but they hope the location is closer to Minnesota to make it easier for fans to travel. Indianapolis and Milwaukee are the nearest sites for the first two rounds.
“That would be pretty cool,” freshman Amir Coffey said. “We have some loyal fans, so I know they would want to come if we’re close enough. That would be cool.”
Record: 24-9, 11-7 Big Ten
Ken Pomeroy (kenpom.com) rating: 33rd in nation
RPI: 22 Strength of schedule: 19 Top-50 RPI record: 8-7
Quality wins: at Purdue, at Maryland, at Northwestern, Michigan, Arkansas
Bad losses: at Penn State