How many wins until the Gophers are in the NCAA tournament?

The Gophers’ path into the NCAAs remains rife with speculation.

When Minnesota heads into Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the opening round of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament Thursday in Indianapolis, no one needs to tell Richard Pitino that Penn State will be hungry.

A year ago, the Gophers coach was on the flip side.

At Florida International, his Golden Panthers were bested twice by Middle Tennessee State during the regular season before turning the tables in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

“We were not losing,” Pitino said this week, the intensity rising in his voice. “We were not losing that game. We were not losing.”

Now, it is Pitino’s crew that will have to stave off a Penn State team certain to have that same mentality after losing to the Gophers twice during the regular season. At stake for the Gophers is their hope of gaining an NCAA tournament berth.

This much appears certain: Minnesota will need at least one more victory to have any chance of being invited to the NCAA tournament. After that, opinions widely vary.

CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm told the Star Tribune he doesn’t believe the Gophers are safely in the field unless they win at least two or three games in the conference tournament.

Pitino thinks otherwise, saying: “Jerry Palm is out of his mind if he thinks we have to win three games to go to the NCAA tournament.”

Pitino said he believes a victory over Penn State will be enough to make the Gophers serious candidates for an at-large berth, based on “20 wins, and you have a top-five strength of schedule [as of Tuesday]. … But obviously a couple things have to pan out the right way.”

The Gophers strive to take it a step further and just claim the championship, which carries with it an automatic tournament berth.

Inside the gym at the Bierman Field Athletic building, seven white posters are affixed to a wall, each containing one character:

“4 IN A ROW”

Minnesota has never won a Big Ten tournament. Doing so now would require a focus that allows the Gophers to block out the constant chatter that surrounds their NCAA prospects.

“It’s tough, especially with all the media and whatnot,” center Mo Walker said. “One day we’re on the good side of the bubble, the other day we’re on the bad side of the bubble. You just try to stay away from it, try to focus on getting better.”

They also need to understand that Penn State (15-16, 6-12 Big Ten) will enter the game determined not to lose three times in one season to the Gophers (19-12, 8-10). Penn State has beaten Ohio State twice this season and has victories over Nebraska and Indiana, giving the Nittany Lions hope that they, too, can win four consecutive tournament games and move on.

“We’ve got to come out with a sense of urgency,” Penn State associate head coach Keith Urgo said. “We know we’re capable of playing with anybody in the country, let alone this league, if we come out and play our game and play as hard as we possibly can.”

The Gophers barely defeated Penn State 68-65 at State College, then gained a blowout 81-63 victory Sunday in the regular-season finale at Williams Arena. For Pitino, that’s reminiscent of his FIU team a year ago, which lost to Middle Tennessee State once in a rout, then in a heartbreaker at the buzzer. FIU turned the tables with a 61-57 victory in the Sun Belt Conference semifinals, then lost 65-63 to Western Kentucky in the title game. Middle Tennessee State ultimately received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, something that almost certainly won’t happen for the Gophers with a loss to Penn State.

The Gophers’ résumé certainly suggests that a loss in Thursday’s opening round is possible.

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 0 1st Qtr 14:04
San Francisco 0
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 1st Prd 4:05
Nashville 0
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 55 2nd Half 12:22
North Carolina 38
Marquette 7:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Long Beach State 7:30 PM
Western Mich
Stephen F Austin 8:00 PM
Prairie View
UAB 8:30 PM
Florida
Rice 8:30 PM
Mercer
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Memphis
LSU 0 2nd Qtr 8:48
Texas A&M 7
(6) TCU 13 2nd Qtr 10:25
Texas 0
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 7:00 PM
Richmond
Oklahoma 7:15 PM
South Florida
Princeton 7:30 PM
Wake Forest
(19) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Butler
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pm

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