The Gophers men's basketball team let another quality win opportunity come and go Wednesday, falling 105-97 at No. 13 Illinois — in an offensive affair not seen in a regulation Big Ten game since 2009.

Of course, the Gophers (17-11, 8-9 Big Ten) are going to do everything they can to win out with three regular season games remaining vs. Penn State and Indiana at home before finishing at Northwestern.

"That competitive fight and that competitive edge," Gophers coach Ben Johnson said. "If we have that these three remaining games until the Big Ten tournament, I think we're going to have a good opportunity to give ourselves a chance to win."

What are Johnson and his team playing for to end the regular season? Here are four things the Gophers can hang on the wall in the locker room moving forward:

NCAA tournament

Johnson won't say the Gophers are still playing for an NCAA tournament bid. He's been hushed about that being a specific goal ever since it became a hot topic of conversation with a major turnaround in Big Ten play from last season.

The Illinois loss actually improved the U's NET ranking two spots to No. 75 as of Thursday. The KenPom offensive rating jumped to No. 43, but the defensive rating is now 100th nationally. They fell to 1-7 in Quad 1 games.

The Gophers need three straight victories to finish 11-9 in the league and probably also a deep Big Ten tournament run to get close to the NCAA tourney bubble. NIT is more likely the way things are going.

Big Ten tourney byes

Picking up quality victories is critical at this time of the year for any team with NCAA tournament hopes, but especially the Gophers with a résumé not worthy yet of serious consideration.

A double bye in the Big Ten tournament would obviously be the best-case scenario to face a top team right away. Having an advantage playing in front of the home crowd in Minneapolis at Target Center could fuel an upset or two.

How realistic is it for Minnesota to get at least a top-four seed? The Big Ten tourney generator said it's still possible as of Thursday, if Minnesota wins out and Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan State struggle in the last three games.

At the least, the Gophers still have a real shot at getting a first-round bye, which means finishing in the top nine in the league. They're in eighth place after losing to Illinois.

Big Ten basketball standings

All-Big Ten awards

What about playing for individual honors? That might be the most attainable goal in the short term. That also might help the Gophers actually end up with an outside shot at the NCAAs.

The way Dawson Garcia and Cam Christie played in Wednesday's loss at Illinois definitely puts them in the conversation for All-Big Ten first-team honors and Big Ten freshman of the year, respectively.

Garcia, who finished with 29 points on 12-for-23 shooting in Champaign, had his eighth game with at least 20 points in Big Ten play, which includes two games with 30 points or more.

Christie had a career-high 23 points on 6-for-9 shooting from three-point range, including 17 points in the first half Wednesday. It was his eighth time in double figures in the last nine games. Watch out Owen Freeman, from Iowa.

NBA stock

NBA scouts have been watching the Gophers all season. Their attendance at games has been more frequent with the stock rising for Christie, the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers guard and ex-Michigan State player Max Christie.

The 6-6 Illinois native and former four-star recruit is tied with Indiana's Mackenzie Mgbako with the highest scoring average for a Big Ten freshman (11.6) through Thursday. He's also shooting 42.7% from three.

You can bet the NBA has Garcia and sophomore Pharrel Payne on their radar this time of the year, too. The Gophers frontcourt duo finishing the season strong also increases their pro potential as well.