The Basketball Power Index ratings on ESPN.com
had the Gophers ranked as the No. 2 team in the country behind No. 1 Duke going into Saturday, when a terrible first half cost Tubby Smith's
squad in an 88-81 loss at Indiana.
The Gophers also ranked No. 3 in the Ratings Percentage Index, the system that the NCAA uses to help determine the field for the NCAA tournament. That rating will take a slight dip after Indiana shot 65.6 percent in the first half, making seven three-pointers on 11 attempts, while the Gophers committed 12 turnovers that led to 19 Hoosiers points and a 52-29 halftime deficit.
Indiana has won 29 of its past 30 games at home -- the lone loss came last season, when the unranked Gophers visited Assembly Hall and beat the No. 7 Hoosiers 77-74.
And on Saturday the Gophers almost did it again. In my book, they still proved they are one of the best teams in the country. They will definitively prove that when they defeat unbeaten Michigan, which will be ranked No. 1 in the country when the polls come out Monday, at Williams Arena on Thursday.
Had the Gophers come all the way back from 23 down, it would have been, in my memory, the top comeback in modern Gophers basketball history.
Joe Coleman opened the second half with a three-point play and the Gophers went on a 14-4 run to start the half. Then coach Tom Crean's Indiana squad recovered, restoring its lead back to 19, and the double-digit lead remained until the final minute.
With 19.5 seconds to play, Andre Hollins, who was tremendous in scoring 25 points to go along with four steals and three assists, was at the free-throw line after being fouled by Victor Oladipo on a three-point attempt. Had he made all three free throws, the score would have been 84-82 instead of 84-81.
But the biggest play came right after that, when Indiana's Jordan Hulls missed two free throws but the Gophers failed to come up with the rebound. Hulls got another chance and made two free throws, pretty much sealing the victory.
No doubt the Hoosiers are a good team, having beaten a top-15 team for the fifth time in 13 months.
But the second-half comeback proved what a tremendous and resilient team the Gophers are. Their two losses this season have come to the only two teams in college basketball who have been ranked No. 1 this year, Duke and Indiana. They will get a shot at the third team to hold that distinction this week.
After the game, Smith said he was happy with the comeback in the second half and that the Gophers proved mentally strong.
"I thought we did the things to give ourselves a chance, didn't embarrass ourselves by folding our tent and heading home," he said. "We have a very competitive group of guys, and that's what I expected of them in the second half."
Rest assured it will be a different story when Indiana plays the Gophers at Williams Arena on Feb. 26.
Seattle tied to Minnesota
When the Seattle Seahawks face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday for a chance to play in the NFC Championship Game, there will be ties to Minnesota all over the field.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll worked as Vikings defensive backs coach from 1985 to '89, and his staff has deep ties to Minnesota, too. His offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, was the Vikings offensive coordinator from 2006 to '10 under Brad Childress.
Carroll's defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, is from Zumbrota and played his college football at North Dakota State. He was a defensive coordinator there in 2005 when he was asked to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff as a defensive quality control coach, working closely with Monte Kiffin.
Bradley worked his way up to linebackers coach and was hired in 2009 to be the Seahawks coordinator -- and Carroll decided to keep Bradley in place after replacing Jim Mora in 2010. Bradley is a candidate for the Eagles coaching job.
On the field, the Seahawks leading receiver is former Vikings standout Sidney Rice. He had just one reception for 27 yards in the Seattle's first-round playoff victory at Washington, but it was a tremendous sideline grab that led to a key score.
Also look for Heath Farwell on kick coverage. The former Vikings special teams star had 15 special-teams tackles during the regular season, and he also recorded one last week against the Redskins.