2016 vs. 2017: Through 28 games …
Last February, the Gophers lost by 14 at lowly Illinois in their 28th game. This February, the streaking Gophers went to Maryland and soundly beat a ranked Terrapins team by 14. A 28-point swing between 28th games. A comparison between seasons at this point in the year shows what a difference a year (and talent, and defense, and coaching, and confidence, etc.) can make:
Last season, through 28 games
This season, through 28 games
Host Illinois outscored the Gophers 29-8 to begin the second half and blew past Minnesota 52-31 after halftime. Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer and Kevin Dorsey were suspended for the game after a sexually explicit video appeared on Dorsey's social media account. The Gophers finished the season winless in road games (0-9).
Game No. 28
A balanced, tough Gophers team pulled away from host Maryland in the second half, confidently dribbling out the last seconds in front a stunned crowd for their sixth victory in a row. After the game, coach Richard Pitino told his team they were no longer playing for an NCAA tournament bid, but instead better seeding.
The Gophers actually had won their previous two games heading to their game at Illinois, including a stunner over then-No. 6 Maryland. But the Illini loss rebooted the tailspin, and the Gophers dropped their final three games by 13, 20 and 33 points.
The upset of Maryland sets up a Saturday home game at where the Gophers, already one of the three hottest teams (Florida has won nine in a row; Purdue and the Gophers have won six) in the major conferences, could win their seventh in a row.
Record vs. Top-50 RPI
Not unless they would have shocked everyone by winning the Big Ten tournament.
NCAA tourney hopes ...
A near-lock. It will be the team's first trip to the Big Dance in four years.