This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

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Pregame: Should the Gophers be tourney bound? A win vs. Wisconsin tonight would almost surely do the trick

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: March 14, 2014 - 2:43 PM

Now should the Gophers be in the NCAA tournament?

That's a subject that is up for plenty of debate.

There's an argument to be made when comparing Minnesota's resume with that of Iowa, which is considered a lock for the Big Dance despite a massive collapse to end the season.

After a Gophers win over Penn State and a Hawkeyes loss to Northwestern last night, Minnesota (47) moved inside the RPI top 50 while Iowa (54) moved out. The teams have the same number of conference wins. The Gophers have a better strength of schedule, too (6 vs. 19). 

But where Minnesota remains unconvincing is in its quality wins. The Gophers don't have enough, especially with the Iowa victory stripped of its luster. And they haven't done anything impressive away from home, their only conference road wins coming against Penn State and Northwestern.

A win tonight against Wisconsin would change that and keep the Gophers from relying on the NCAA tournament committee to make a borderline pick. Beating the Badgers would take away the debate and make Minnesota as close to a no-brainer as its been all year.

It won't be easy. Wisconsin didn't become a projected 2-seed in the NCAA tournament being a pushover. But the Gophers have already proven capable of downing the Badgers this year -- and nothing about what Wisconsin does has changed much since then.

Guarding in the paint has been something of a weakness all year for the Badgers, and that story doesn't appear to be turning. In its last three games, Wisconsin has allowed opponents to make at least 51 percent of their two-point attempts. 

Back in January, that's exactly how the Gophers whipped their border rival into submission at Williams Arena. Mo Walker had a career-high 18 points in that one, and the Gophers scored 48 points in the paint to charge past Wisconsin, 81-68. The next time around, that strategy was stunted when Walker got into early foul trouble and had to sit for most of the first half. When he came back in the second, he wasn't the same player and Minnesota had lost its advantage.

"Definitely a big rivalry game," DeAndre Mathieu said. "If guys don’t come ready to play for that one then something must be wrong with us. We’re going to come out fired up tomorrow and just ready to get after it."


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