Five tidbits while I gear up for the Big Ten tournament:
1. In today's Star Tribune, my game story from the Gophers' 81-63 victory over Penn State in the regular-season finale. Plus, some early Big Ten tournament thoughts on the blog. Did the win push the Gophers on the right side of the bubble? Not quite yet.
2. Gophers coach Richard Pitino put Oto Osenieks in for just a few seconds at the end of Minnesota's win on Sunday night despite the fact that the forward's playing career is technically over because of knee injuries. It was a nice gesture for a player that has been with the team for four years, including his redshirt season.
"The reason why we announced that he was seeking a medical [waiver] was I wanted to honor him tonight," Pitino said. "If we didn't have that opportunity I would have waited and just worked on it in the offseason. But I just ... wanted him to at least have his opportunity to get a jersey, speak to the crowd ... and I didn't want to show up Penn State in any way but I wanted to get him on the court somehow."
3. The Big Ten bracket has officially been set with the final game of the night -- a Nebraska home win over Wisconsin -- giving the Huskers the final top seed (check out Tim Miles' postgame message to his team here). Michigan (1), Wisconsin (2) and Michigan State (3) round out the top four that will receive opening-round byes. The Gophers (7) will face Penn State (10) again at 5:30 CT on Thursday. The winner will play Wisconsin on Friday.
4. Last night, a major theme in the locker room and at the podium was the notion that it's hard to beat a team three times. Just how hard is it? Nadine Babu of Gopherhole took a look, finding that from 1998-2013, the team that went 2-0 in the regular season won a third matchup 67.3 percent of the time. What do you think? Is this number higher or lower than you expected?
"Richard Pitino's Gophers got a big W today. Minnesota finished season 8-10 in the B1G with great computer numbers. Need a win in league tourney." -- @jeffgreeer_cj
"#Huskers finish #B1G campaign 11-7. That's absolutely unthinkable. Tim Miles, you will never buy another meal in Lincoln." -- @BTNBrentYarina
"Wouldn't it be wild if all these Big Ten teams gathered in the same city and played a single elimination tournament? One can dream." -- @MedcalfByESPN
"Never thought I'd say this but Nebraska is drunk on basketball." -- @HuskersExtraBR
"Nebraska's win means more pressure for the remaining bubble teams. One less NCAA slot for everyone else on the brink of the field." -- @JonRothstein
Random ranking: Best Gopher wins this season
1. Penn State at home: What, you ask? Beating up this lowly squad? But after all the rest of the season was played out, the Gophers needed this one the most. And against a struggling squad, and after a week layoff, Minnesota took care of business.
2. Iowa at home: That win doesn't look nearly as impressive anymore with the Hawkeyes struggling but looking back, the victory seems to have started the turning of a corner. Including that game, the Gophers have shot at least 52.2 percent from the field in five of their six ensuing halves.
3. Wisconsin at home: Nothing gears up a fanbase like a strong win over a rival. Unfortunately for the Gophers, they followed up the raucous performance -- set in the best atmosphere I've seen in the Barn since coming here -- with another letdown. At the same time, Minnesota's dominance in the paint vs. the Badgers should lend itself to confidence should the Gophers face Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament second round.
4. Northwestern on the road: Minnesota's road record is still not a strength -- the Gophers went just 2-7 away from home in the Big Ten this season -- but notching one in Wildcats territory was absolutely necessary, both to avoid another "bad" loss and to have a more recent road experience to draw on when the Gophers head to Indy's neutral court. It wasn't pretty, but in the Big Ten a road win is a win is a win.
5. Ohio State at home: It was the start of the Gophers' ranked victories and the first glimpse that the team could be capable -- at least at times -- of playing with good squads. Elliott Eliason had a big game, the Gophers were rolling offensively and on the other end, they held the Buckeyes to just 35.3 percent shooting.