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Both the U men and women have realistic hopes of postseason play. Amanda Zahui B. tried to push around Penn State’s Tori Waldner last month. Maurice Walker blocked a shot by Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb on Sunday.

Left: ABBY DREY/MCT, Right: NAM Y. HUH/Associated Press,

Minnesota forward Maurice Walker, left, blocks a shot by Northwestern guard JerShon Cobb during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Evanston, Ill., Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. Minnesota won 54-48. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Rand: Gophers men, women have realistic shot at NCAAs

  • February 17, 2014 - 11:47 PM

Officially, the Gophers men’s and women’s basketball teams have played in the NCAA tournament in the same season the same number of times that the Twins have won games over the Yankees in the playoffs.

So you know it’s rare.

It’s happened just twice, according to current history books: in 2005 and 2009 (the Twins took one game from the Yankees in both the 2003 and 2004 ALDS, in case you’re curious). Memory tells us that the Gophers teams also both made the NCAA field in 1994, but the men’s appearance was wiped out by the academic fraud scandal.

This year, then, offers an opportunity. The latest “Bracketology” report for both men’s and women’s basketball was released Monday at ESPN.com, and it was good news for both squads even as it underscored how much work still lies ahead.

The men’s team, which has consistently shown up in the field of 68 for several weeks, is currently projected as a No. 10 seed after a critical victory Sunday at Northwestern.

The women’s squad, which has been on the outside looking in, moved into the projected NCAA tourney field after big road victories at Wisconsin and Northwestern. The Gophers are slated as a No. 11 seed.

The U men are projected as one of the last four teams to get byes, while the U women are tabbed as one of the “last four in” right now. That means there will be plenty of big games ahead for both teams to keep them in the NCAA picture.

The men’s squad, which is 6-7 in the Big Ten and plays an 18-game regular-season schedule, has must-win games at home against Illinois (Wednesday) and to close the season against Penn State. In between, the Gophers have a home game against Iowa and road games against Michigan and Ohio State. Three more victories in the regular season would wrap up a bid. Two victories and a win in the Big Ten tourney could very well get it done, too. Anything less could get dicey.

The women’s squad, which is 6-6 in the conference and plays a 16-game regular-season schedule, is home against Purdue, at Michigan State, home against Indiana and home against Ohio State to finish the season. Two wins out of the four would likely get them in — particularly if one of the victories was over Indiana, which currently sits on the bubble as one of the “first four teams out.”

That could be an NCAA tournament swing game at Williams Arena on Feb. 27 — and will help determine whether the Gophers accomplish a rarity this year.

MICHAEL RAND


 

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