Now that the Gophers have won a game in the Big Ten men's basketball tournament by beating Northwestern, and even though they won't beat Michigan State in today's quarterfinals, there might be an outside chance they get an NCAA tournament bid.

No doubt this team overachieved this season by beating Louisville, Illinois and Wisconsin twice.

Had the Gophers lost to Northwestern on Wednesday, they wouldn't have had any chance.

But college basketball is mediocre all over, including in the Big Ten, where Michigan State is the only standout team. The Spartans lost at home to Penn State and Northwestern.

No reflection on former coach Dan Monson, but if he were coaching this team, the Gophers would not have any chance of making it to the NCAA tournament, even with the same record.

But since the coach is Tubby Smith, the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and a man with a great career record, the committee might need to fill a hole here or there, and the Gophers might and -- I still say might -- get a shot at an NCAA bid.

Big interest in Twins

The Twins already have sold 1.1 million tickets for the 2009 season, putting them on the way to 2 million-plus attendance. This includes 44,000 tickets already sold for the Twins' opener April 6 against Seattle.

 The Twins rank fourth in attendance in the Florida Grapefruit League with an overall total of 37,563, an average of 7,513 in five home games. The Yankees lead with an average of 10,644, followed by the Braves at 7,983 and the Red Sox at 7,550. The Twins rank sixth overall in baseball when the Cubs (9,769) and the Dodgers (8,679), who train in Arizona, are included.

Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven is getting nothing but praise for the job he did coaching the Netherlands' pitching staff into the second round of the World Baseball Classic. Team Canada, meanwhile, played only two games in the World Baseball Classic, getting eliminated after losing to the United States and Italy, even though both games were in Toronto. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau went 0-for-4 with an RBI in Canada's 6-5 loss to the United States, then went 4-for-5 with two doubles in the 6-2 loss to Italy on Monday. Twins reliever Jesse Crain didn't pitch against the United States, but struck out all four Italian batters he faced, including Twins teammate Nick Punto to end the top of the ninth inning.

 As for Punto, he played shortstop and led off for Italy, but he hit only .083 (1-for-12) and committed an error that led to two runs in a 10-1 elimination loss to Venezuela on Wednesday.

 Twins reliever Luis Ayala pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief in Mexico's 14-3 victory over South Africa on Monday, giving up two singles. ... Twins infield prospect Luke Hughes homered in his first World Baseball Classic at-bat, a two-run homer off Mets lefthander Oliver Perez in Australia's 17-7 victory over Mexico on Sunday. Hughes finished the three WBC games 3-for-12 (.250) with the home run and three RBI.

Jottings

Gophers recruit Ra'shede Hageman, a tight end from Washburn, has been ranked the No. 1 prospect at his position, and No. 97 overall, by recruiting expert Tom Lemming.

SportsIllustrated.cnn.com has picked the Gophers football team to be a possible darkhorse team in the Big Ten.

"Which team will be the surprise if 2009?" is one of the topics authored by Andy Staples on the website. "How about Minnesota?" Staples asks. "The Golden Gophers won seven of their first eight games last year before losing their last five. That's after going 1-11 in coach Tim Brewster's first season in 2007. Brewster's infectious optimism made players want to come to Minneapolis even after that miserable season."

The best thing that could happen in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament regionals scheduled for the Metrodome March 20 and 22 is for North Dakota State to be one of the teams in this region. Overnight, you would have a sellout.

It's hard to second-guess the deal that brought Kevin Love to the Timberwolves from the Memphis Grizzlies, with the former UCLA star having posted his 20th double-double of the season in the victory here Wednesday. He leads the rookies in this category. ... Ryan Gomes, enjoying a great season despite the Wolves' poor record, has led the team in scoring the past four games with an average of 22.3 points.

About 60 former Vikings who played for Bud Grant showed up last Sunday at the memorial service for wife, Pat Grant, in Eden Prairie. Defenseman Marco Scandella, the Wild's second-round draft choice last season, has 10 goals and 26 assists and 56 penalty minutes in 55 games for Val-d'Or of the QMJHL. ... Former Wild winger Branko Radivojevic has 17 goals and 28 assists in 49 games for the Moscow Spartak in the KHL Russian League. ... Former Wild winger Mark Parrish has seven goals and five assists in 54 games and fellow Bloomington native Toby Petersen has four goals and seven assists in 57 games for the Dallas Stars.

Veteran Owen Nolan of the Wild scored two goals Tuesday against San Jose to give him 20 this season, and he became the 14th active player to reach the 400th goal plateau

Wofford sophomore forward Noah Dahlman of Braham, Minn., was named all-league by the Southern Conference coaches. He averaged a team-high 17.8 points per game, third in the conference, and collected 6.3 rebounds per game. He shot 60.9 percent from the floor, good for 11th in the nation. Wofford finished 16-14 after losing to Elon 62-55 in the conference tournament. Among the Terriers' victories was a 69-66 triumph at Chattanooga, the school that won the conference tournament and the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth. Next season, former DeLaSalle guards Cameron Rundles and Jamar Diggs also will be playing for Wofford after they sat out this season as transfers. Rundles came to Wofford from Montana, Diggs from Wayne State (Neb.).

Tyrone Carter, now a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, recently visited Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla., where he graduated in 1995 before becoming one of the best defensive backs in Gophers history. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Carter spoke with students about being successful in life and in school, emphasizing the need for students to stay focused on academics and to steer clear of drugs and crime. "No matter what, I'll help," he told the newspaper. "I try to get them to enjoy life as it should be for a child." On Feb. 21, Pompano Beach held a parade for Carter.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com