Gophers hope to make positive impression on selection committee

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2013 - 7:50 AM

They haven’t helped their cause in their past two losses, and hope beating Illinois in Chicago can help that.

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Austin Hollins dunked the ball in the last seconds of the game at Williams Arena, one of the season's high points.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Ask Tubby Smith about his team’s spot in the NCAA tournament, and his response is less than 100 percent confident.


The Gophers coach, while leading his squad to 11 victories over top-100 RPI teams (three in the top 20), knows he and his limping squad also have given the selection committee plenty of negatives to ponder.

So with a final chance to gain some positivity as they barrel toward Selection Sunday — the No. 9-seeded Gophers face 
No. 8-seeded Illinois in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament in Chicago on Thursday — Smith wants to make a statement.

“I think we’ve got to be fighting for it all the time,” he said. “There’s a lot of [areas where] we’re suspect. Our full body of work is probably as good as anybody else’s around, so we’re at least in the top 20 or 30 I would think as far as RPI and things like that and the good wins, the quality of wins that we’ve had. But again, they look at what you’ve done lately too, and so that’s where we’ve got to step up in this tournament.”

CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm said over text that he doesn’t think the Gophers can fall out of the NCAA field even if they lose to Illinois. Most likely, he said, they’ll end up as a No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament as well, but depending on what they do and other teams do it’s possible they could rise as high as a No. 6 or drop to as low as a No. 11.

But even if the Gophers are just fighting for better positioning, historically speaking, they’ve succeeded in neutral settings.

The bulk of this Minnesota team — sans just Trevor Mbakwe and Wally Ellenson — was also part of the team that plowed through the NIT tournament last season after a disappointing regular season. They won two of three in last year’s Old Spice Classic in Orlando, and notched victories in the Bahamas against then-No. 19 Memphis and Stanford. Three of the starting five — Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins — were part of the team that beat then-No. 8 North Carolina in Puerto Rico.

The games will be held at United Center, a place where Illinois typically plays a game every season. There’s also a chance that more Illini fans — based on proximity — will be in attendance. Still, the tournament will offer a more sterile and balanced atmosphere than any away court.

Part of Minnesota’s success in those situations is due to the same issue that has also plagued the Gophers this season: their proclivity to overthink and get wrapped up in the details, Smith said.

“I think a lot of it has to do with how you just play,” Smith said of tournament situations. “There’s not a lot of preparation time, you just go in and play. There’s not a whole lot of thinking, or a whole lot of game preparation, and that may be better suited for us, to be honest with you.”

Notes
• Andre Ingram tweaked an ankle in Saturday’s 89-73 loss at Purdue, but is “fine” now, Smith said.

• Julian Welch didn’t play Saturday because of a lingering illness, Smith said. “He was very weak. I didn’t think he would be very effective, to be honest with you,” Smith said.

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 69 4th Qtr 5:51
Chicago 99
Golden State 48 3rd Qtr
Milwaukee 38
Oklahoma City 46 2nd Qtr 2:58
Utah 41
Denver 9:00 PM
Portland
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 3rd Prd 15:45
Minnesota 2
Columbus 3 3rd Prd 15:13
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 0 2nd Prd 18:18
Colorado 2
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 39 2nd Half 16:00
Kentucky 40
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 2nd Half 26:00
Houston 0
Seattle 0 2nd Half 26:00
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73

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