Now that the Gophers snatched up their regular-season finale over Penn State with a big win on senior night, they have a shot to get into the NCAA tournament.

But it won't be easy.

Minnesota will likely need to prove itself in the Big Ten tournament beyond a rematch against the Nittany Lions in the first round, CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm said. And beyond round two, the road is still rocky.

"Really, the only sure thing is to win the tournament," Palm said of Minnesota. "Less than that might do ... but the only way to control your destiny is to win your tournament."

The Gophers went 8-10 in the conference slate, with just a 2-7 record on the road, Minnesota's only victories away from home coming at Penn State and Northwestern. 

Minnesota's strength of schedule is elite -- landing at fifth nationally -- but the Gophers RPI has been dropping. Currently, Minnesota is just within the Top 50 at No. 49.

While many of us have looked at the opening round opponent as a lucky draw for the Gophers, who have already beaten the Nittany Lions twice this season, Palm pointed out that it also ruins an opportunity. 

Without a strong initial opponent, the Gophers will ultimately need to win more games to earn a berth, he said. Another victory over Penn State doesn't do anything for the Gophers' RPI, and it's certainly not going to impress the committee. It won't be the notable road win Minnesota so badly needs.

The absence of a strong win away from home is one of the things that separates Minnesota from a team like Nebraska, which has essentially played itself into the tournament at this point, notching wins at Indiana and against Wisconsin to end the year.

"There are other things that are hurting [the Gophers]," Palm said. "They've got some bad losses too ... but I think the thing that needs to be addressed right now is succeeding away from home. 

"They have opportunities because of the conference and the tournament, and so they're fortunate to have those opportunities, but that's what they need to do. And beating just one might not be enough."

Palm said even in the scenario in which Minnesota beats both Wisconsin and its next round opponent -- say Michigan State -- he thinks the Gophers' ceiling is a double-digit seed simply based on the regular season.

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