Gophers aim to be likely 7th conference selection




INDIANAPOLIS — Other sights and sounds from Day 1 of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where Minnesota and Northwestern won the evening session games following victories by Illinois and Ohio State to start the day.

Is it too late for the Big Ten to back out of adding Maryland and Rutgers?

Maryland and Rutgers, the two schools slated to join the Big Ten for the 2014-15 season, had conference tournament performances to forget Thursday.

Firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, the Terrapins (17-15) lost 67-65 on a last-second dunk to Florida State in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Maryland, which finished 9-9 in the ACC, will likely not hear its name called on Selection Sunday for the fourth consecutive year, its longest stretch of futility since missing the NCAA tournament from 1989-93.

If Maryland’s defeat was heart-wrenching, Rutgers’ loss was nothing short of embarrassing.

Louisville dropped the Scarlet Knights 92-31 in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals, scoring 44 points off 26 Rutgers turnovers. The Cardinals led 58-16 at half, meaning the defending national champions could’ve gone scoreless in the second half and still won by 27.

The Scarlet Knights have six NCAA appearances, with none since 1991. Eddie Jordan, who helped Rutgers to the 1976 Final Four and was the head coach of three NBA teams, is in his first year heading his alma mater. To this point, Jordan’s squad has managed just three wins over Division I teams with .500 records or better.

State of Indiana shut out of NCAAs

For the first time since 2005, the Hoosier State will not be represented in the NCAA tournament. The state’s four flagship programs — Indiana, Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame — all bowed out in the first round of their respective conference tournaments, with Hoosiers the only squad presently above .500.

As for the other Division I state schools needing conference tournament titles to gain entry to the NCAA tournament, Indiana State and IPFW fell in their respective championship games, while Ball State, IUPUI, Evansville and Valparaiso all bowed out before the semifinal round.

Prior to 2005, 1975 was last time the entire state of Indiana was shut out, so it’s a good bet not to happen again in 2015.

With another win, Minnesota could be lucky No. 7

The top six teams in the Big Ten regular-season standings — Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa — are considered to be in good standing when it comes to punching their Big Dance tickets.

Minnesota (20-12, 8-10 B10), the No. 7 seed, dispatched No. 10 Penn State 63-56 Thursday. With a win today against Wisconsin the Golden Gophers may jump off the bubble and into the tournament. Their coach thought they could’ve sewn up a bid Thursday night.

“I thought that if we won tonight and things went our way, we could be in,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said.

The Golden Gophers’ RPI of 50 is solid and its strength of schedule ranking (fifth) is even better, but their 3-8 record against the RPI top 50 is lacking, as their 3-7 road record.

Ohio State, Matta continue B10 tourney dominance

With its 63-61 win over Purdue, Thursday, Ohio State bumped its all-time record in the Big Ten Tournament to 23-9, good for a tournament-best winning percentage of 72 percent.

Under the tutelage of 10th-year coach Thad Matta, the Buckeyes have reached the tourney’s title game in seven of the past eight years, winning championships in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2013.

OSU has typically been hot leading into postseason play, posting 7-3, 7-3, 6-3, 7-2 and 8-1 marks the last five years from Feb. 1 up to the Big Ten tournament.

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