Tourney run gets Gophers into the dance

Posted: March 14, 2010, 5:22 p.m. CT

The Gophers needed to make a strong impression at the Big Ten tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA men’s basketball tourney, and that’s exactly what Tubby Smith’s team did.

A convincing win over Penn State and upsets of nationally ranked Michigan State and Purdue were enough to convince the NCAA selection committee that the Gophers belonged in the big dance. Minnesota earned the No. 11 seed in the West Region and will face sixth-seeded Xavier on Friday in Milwaukee.

The winner of that game will take on the winner of No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 14 Oakland on Sunday for a trip to the Sweet 16.

The Gophers were a ‘bubble team’ even heading into Sunday’s Big Ten tournament final, and after trailing Ohio State by three at halftime, the Buckeyes pulled away for a 90-61 victory. But by that time, the Gophers apparently had done enough to sway the opinion of the selection committee, giving Tubby Smith back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances with the Gophers.

Stay tuned to all week as we preview the Minnesota-Xavier game and provide coverage of the madness that is the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.