More than any Minnesota season I've covered, this one is left with such doubt about whether any more games will be played. My first year on this beat, 2011-12, the Gophers finished the season with the same 6-12 conference record, and won a similarly unimpressive matchup vs. Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament before narrowly losing to Michigan in the second round. But a January win at No. 7 Indiana and a decent RPI (ranked 53) had the Gophers appearing bound for the NIT. The next year, after ranked wins over Memphis, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana, the Gophers were on the bubble of the NCAA tournament -- and got in. Last year, they were there again, but fell just short and landed in the NIT. This year, Minnesota's chances for any postseason are firmly in doubt.
Will they make the NIT? Won't they? Have we seen the 2014-15 Gophers for the last time? Will Minnesota get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to defend its NIT championship? These are the questions anguished Minneapolites are roaming the streets shouting today.
(OK probably not, but we'll take a look at it anyway):
Argument for Minnesota to get in: Although the Big Ten isn't the Big Ten of last year, it's still no slob. The conference is ranked fourth nationally in RPI and will probably tie the Big 12 for most NCAA tournament bids with seven. The Gophers had a couple of nice road wins at Iowa and Michigan State, far more impressive than the wins away from home Minnesota had last year. And the eye test says that the Gophers aren't far off. Eight of 12 losses in the conference season were by only one or two possessions. Another six-point loss came vs. Ohio State on Thursday. Minnesota rarely got blown out and was often in position to win with less than a minute left.
Argument for Minnesota to be left out: After playing a bunch of inferior teams ranked 250th or lower in Division I according to kenpom.com, the Gophers RPI and strength of schedule doesn't come close to last year's high marks. After the loss to Ohio State, Minnesota sits 89th nationally with a SOS at 65 (last year the Gophers were 50th and ninth respectively). And in the end, the only thing that matters is results. Minnesota has no ranked wins and landed as an 11th seed in the conference. The NIT hasn't taken a 6-12 team since Minnesota in 2011-12, but we've already noted how different those two situations are. If the NIT selection committee really no longer takes into consideration past performance, ticket sales and marketability, the Gophers should be out..