If the Gophers want to make the NCAA Tournament, they need to start stringing victories together. Thursday’s game against No. 24 Purdue provides them with another quality win opportunity.
In last month’s 81-62 loss to the Boilermakers, the Gophers struggled on the glass. Minnesota grabbed a 14-point lead in the first half, but poor rebounding kept Purdue within striking distance. That night, the Boilermakers held a 44-27 rebounding advantage and snatched 17 offensive boards. Guard Brandon Newman also drained five second-half 3-pointers to fuel the Boilers’ 19-point win.
If the Gophers are going to pick up a win this time around, they must match Purdue’s physicality on both ends of the court. Minnesota should also strive for the assist and 3-point shooting benchmark I highlighted in previous subscriber breakdowns. For this team, everything centers around ball movement and strong defense.
The Gophers must execute in those areas if they want to make an NCAA Tournament push. Right now, Minnesota is squarely in the field, but its margin for error dwindles every day. A loss to Purdue would have a major impact on the program’s tournament bid probability.
Entering Thursday afternoon’s game, the Gophers have a 76.6 percent NCAA Tournament bid probability, according to BartTorvik.com. If Minnesota loses to Purdue, its odds drop to 67 percent. A loss essentially eliminates any margin for error over the final seven games. On the other hand, a win would bump the Gophers’ bid probability up to 83.7 percent. Simply put, Thursday’s matchup against Purdue could swing Minnesota’s NCAA Tournament chances by 16.7 percent.
I joined Ben Stevens on the Locked on Big Ten podcast to preview every aspect of this huge game. My portion of the show begins around the 14-minute mark:
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