Now, the NCAA selection committee will decide.
Friday, after the Gophers' rough loss to Wisconsin, which knocked Minnesota out of the Big Ten tournament, the team is on very tenuous ground heading into Selection Sunday.
CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm and ESPN's Joe Lunardi each had the Gophers watching from home in their tournament predictions this morning.
It's hard to believe Minnesota's first-round win over Penn State, in combination with their conference resume, will be enough.
The Gophers lack impressive wins away from home, beating only Richmond in the non-conference schedule, Penn State and Northwestern in the Big Ten slate and then the Nittany Lions once more on Thursday. Iowa's tumble has also hurt them. With the Hawkeyes dropping out of the top-50 on Friday morning, the Gophers have just two victories in that category. Those being enough to make the committee overlook a handful of bad losses seems unlikely.
A win on Friday probably would make the Gophers a favorite to at least participate in the First Four.
At this point, however, it seems Minnesota would need the perfect storm involving other bubble teams to slide in.
Yet, while the Gophers were obviously disappointed on Friday, they seemed far from crushed. The general theme seemed to be that they feel their season was ultimately successful and that they deserve to dance.
If not, they'll head to the NIT intent to win it, Andre Hollins said.
"The opportunity to play, to continue to play when [not everyone] else in the country is, that's huge right there," Andre Hollins said. "That's key. To keep getting better, competing. That's all you can ask for, to keep playing basketball."
At many times, the Gophers seemed primed to make an NCAA tournament type run. Throughout the year, Minnesota showed sparks of invigorating offense and huge improvements in a couple of key areas -- most notably at the point guard spot and in the frontcourt. The Gophers had a few wins that seemed huge at the time, including Iowa victory that almost instantly began to dull.
But defensive lapses, an affinity for turnovers and overall consistency were ultimately the downfall.
Pitino said on Friday he's still hoping that the Gophers sixth-ranked strength of schedule
nationally will hold a lot of weight in the decisions.
"We played one of the best schedules in the country, and that's normally what they want you to do," he said. "That being said, whatever tournament we are in, I'm proud -- we're disappointed tonight, but I'm proud of how hard these guys have played this whole year."