There are many postseason possibilities and scenarios swirling for the Gophers women’s basketball team, but one thing seems certain: They need to win Sunday.
Their opponent is Illinois, winner of exactly zero Big Ten games this season.
A loss Sunday afternoon in Champaign, Ill., for Minnesota would not only be quite damaging for egos, it also would knock the Gophers out of the Big Ten’s top four — and possibly out of the NCAA tournament.
The Gophers (21-7, 10-5 Big Ten) are in pretty good shape for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Win Sunday and they’ll be a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament — which comes with a double bye, directly into the quarterfinals — and have 11 conference victories after a strong February.
A loss ... well, that might be enough for the NCAA tournament selection committee to look elsewhere.
Illinois (9-20, 0-15) has lost 16 in a row, and five of its past six losses have been by more than 10 points.
The Gophers, meanwhile, have been going the opposite direction, winning seven of their past nine. Two of those wins came against Top 25 teams (Michigan and Maryland), but a loss vs. Indiana on Tuesday ended a four-game win streak. They’d better make sure that doesn’t become a losing streak Sunday.
The Gophers will know their Big Ten tournament seed after Sunday’s game. A top-four seed would mean their first game is a quarterfinal on Friday in Indianapolis.
A win vs. the Illini followed by at least one tournament win and the Gophers could probably start packing for an NCAA trip.
Selection Monday for the NCAA women’s tournament is March 12, eight days after the Big Ten tournament ends.