When Matthew Hurt went to Duke two years ago, his expectations were to be competing for national championships. Making the NCAA tournament was a given.
After all, nobody in the Blue Devils' "Brotherhood" had missed the NCAAs since 1995, when Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski was basically out most of the season after back surgery.
Unfortunately for Hurt, he's fighting to keep Duke on the right side of the bubble instead of chasing a title this year.
Hurt is arguably the ACC's top player. The 6-9 Rochester native turned himself into a potential NBA first-round draft pick after returning for his sophomore year. But he's one of several Minnesota natives desperate to avoid their bubbles bursting as we get closer to Selection Sunday this March.
"Let's just keep working," Hurt told reporters last weekend after his career-high 37 points weren't enough in an 80-73 overtime loss to Louisville. "It's a long season, and it's been ups and downs. But once we lose, we've just got to keep getting better, keep working at practice, games, everything — just putting your head down and keep working."
Duke's record fell to 11-10 overall after losing a second consecutive overtime game Tuesday, 81-77 at Georgia Tech. No Coach K in the NCAA tournament seemed like crazy talk entering this season, but the odds now are more likely the Blue Devils won't get a shot at adding to that extensive trophy collection.
The 13-13 Gophers aren't in line for an NCAA tournament berth unless they win the Big Ten tournament next week, but it's hard to bet against all of the Minnesotans on the March Madness bubble this season. Here are four teams other than Duke with state ties needing to carry momentum into next weekend.
Colorado (20-7): The Buffaloes are probably safer than any team mentioned here. Former Champlin Park star and senior point guard McKinley Wright is playing with a sense of urgency to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in his career. Wright scored 26 points in Colorado's 70-61 victory over UCLA on Saturday, the Buffaloes' sixth win in their past eight games.
Colorado State (17-4): In the same state where Wright is leading a Pac-12 program, Rams coach and Minneapolis native Niko Medved is getting closer to punching his first ticket to the Big Dance. Medved, who has former DeLaSalle High coach Dave Thorson and former Breck star David Roddy in the program, is projected as an 11th seed for the NCAA tournament after a school-record 14th win in the Mountain West by beating New Mexico 87-73 on Wednesday.
Utah State (17-7): Another coach with Minnesota ties, Utah State's Craig Smith, didn't get to lead his team in a second consecutive NCAA tournament last year after it was canceled because of the pandemic. But the native of Stephen, Minn., is back with the Aggies probably needing some wins in the Mountain West tournament to remain in contention for another berth. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had them among his "First Four Out" on Thursday morning.
North Carolina (15-9): When was the last time Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Michigan State missed the NCAA tournament? That would be 1973-74. The Tar Heels, who play Saturday vs. Duke, have the best chance to not suffer the same fate as their blue-blood brethren. Freshman guard and Hopkins product Kerwin Walton is a part of why Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams' program bounced back from last year's 14-19 season. CBSSports bracketologist Jerry Palm had UNC among his "Last Four In" early Thursday.
Marcus Fuller covers college basketball for the Star Tribune.