Win and they’re in?
With three victories in a row, the Gophers women have slayed a slump that could have sunk their spirited season. No. 13 Iowa, second in the Big Ten standings and winners of four in a row, comes to Williams Arena on Tuesday for a game that could be the Gophers’ ticket to the NCAA tournament. A victory would give the Gophers, fourth in the Big Ten, 21 victories, one short of what coach Marlene Stollings considers the “magic number” of 22. It would also be their first victory against a ranked team in the new year. A loss would put more pressure on Saturday’s home game against 14-11 Michigan.
The Gophers men’s team, coming off a torching Sunday by Indiana, appears headed to the tournament where it has found the most success in recent seasons: the NIT. The Gophers return home Wednesday against Northwestern needing a winning streak in their final five games, or a Big Ten tournament sweep, to reach the NCAA tournament. In these five games, Minnesota faces conference leader Wisconsin twice and travels to Michigan State. That’s bad news, and also good news: the Gophers do not have a victory against a ranked team. So while the remaining schedule is daunting, it also has exactly what they need: the potential for signature victories. The Gophers have a weak RPI and strength of schedule, even compared to last year, so it’s possible they’ll need to win all five to get back on the fringe of the NCAAs debate.