The Gophers women’s basketball team’s recent inconsistent play appears to have cost the school a chance to host NCAA tournament games. The NCAA women's tournament committee identified its top 20 teams Wednesday night, and those schools are leading candidates to host the first- and second-round games in the tournament. Only Iowa and Maryland from the Big Ten were chosen as “top-20 seeds."
Maryland is in first place in the Big Ten, and Iowa is now second, a spot the Gophers’ held for weeks until a late-January slide that featured four losses in five games.
“It’s important to keep in mind that [Wednesday's] announcement has no bearing on the final bracket, but we were able to identify those institutions that are a possible top-20 seed so that they can begin preparations to host first- and second-round play," said Dru Hancock, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.
The 2015 NCAA women's basketball tournament will utilize a hosting model that will allow the top 16 seeds who meet championship hosting requirements to host first- and second-round games on March 20-23.
The Gophers (19-6; 8-5 in Big Ten), winners Wednesday night at home against Wisconsin, 93-82, are on the NCAA tournament bubble, with ESPN projecting the team as a No. 9 seed. Minnesota is in fifth place in the Big Ten, a step below Rutgers and Ohio State.
The Gophers next face Penn State, 3-11 in Big Ten play, Sunday on the road.
The committee's top 20 teams: Arizona State, Baylor, California, Duke, Florida State, George Washington, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon State, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UConn, Washington
Why was Brian Burke, who grew up in Edina and played high school hockey there, fired as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager? No one is quite sure.
It might have been his refusal to trade for Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. It might have been his gruff, very old-school manner. It might have been the media partnership that now owns the team. And it might have been all the above.
Also cited in the reports of Burke's demise was his trade for former Gopher Phil Kessel. Admittedly, Kessel is a scorer the Leafs needed, but he came over at a price that set up Boston for its Stanley Cup and perhaps more. It is cited as the biggest mistake in Burke's tenure, even though Burke had said he would make that trade again.
But as Burke is being criticized for giving up too much for Kessel, the Leafs' pursuit of Luongo allegedly would cost them the services for Minnetonka's Jake Gardiner as well as young forward Nazem Kadri. Those young pieces for the aging, streaky Luongo drew scorn from Toronto fans and was something Burke was downplaying for months back when there was an NHL season.
Burke was sent packing as general manager but will stay on in this shortened season as a senior adviser, and his role as ultimate hockey decisionmaker for English Canada's landmark franchise ended with a wake Wednesday night. But the Leafs, owned by a teachers pension funds before media rivals Rogers Communications and Bell Canada took over, are now seen more like the Dallas Cowboys or Chicago Cubs: A team with a storied history that isn't doing much in the here and now, despite a sports-crazy, big-money, high-stakes atmosphere.
Even so, Burke knew the writing was on the wall even as he took the top job in the self-styled Heart of Hockey. In explaining the trade for Kessel, Burke said this: "“Because if I don’t get this team in the playoffs in three years they’ll be all over me.”
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