The Gophers men’s basketball team receives a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament as the No. 7 seed opening 6 p.m. Thursday against No. 10 seed Penn State at the United Center in Chicago.
After finishing the regular season 19-12 and 9-11 in the Big Ten, Minnesota will look to open the conference tourney with a win for the fourth time in six seasons under Richard Pitino.
The winner of the 7-10 game will play 6 p.m. Friday against No. 2 seed Purdue.
In their only meeting this season, the Gophers won 65-64 against the Nittany Lions at home on Jan. 19. Jordan Murphy had 19 points and tied a career-high with 21 rebounds, to go with six assists, three blocks and three steals in the game.
Pitino’s team trailed Penn State 38-30 at halftime and by 11 points early in the second half before making a comeback. Lamar Stevens had 27 points for the Nittany Lions.
After wins against Northwestern and No. 11 Purdue, the Gophers finished the regular season with a 69-60 loss at Maryland last Friday.
Penn State won six of its last eight games in Big Ten play, including a second straight victory Sunday 72-56 against Illinois.
Pitino expressed his confidence Minnesota will receive an NCAA tournament at-large bid, but he might need another victory to feel safe on Selection Sunday.
The Gophers, who are 3-9 in Quadrant 1 games, are No. 56 in the NET rankings, No. 54 in BPI, No. 46 in KenPom, No. 42 in KPI and No. 43 schedule strength.
CBSSports’ Jerry Palm updated his bracket this weekend with Minnesota a No. 10 seed vs. No. 7 VCU in Tulsa, Okla. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Gophers as one of his “Last Four Byes” in the field with Texas, Arizona State and Temple.