Minnesota Basketball: Reviewing Gophers' NCAA Tournament Résumé

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Minnesota Basketball: Reviewing Gophers' NCAA Tournament Résumé
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Despite dropping six of their last eight games, the Gophers' tournament résumé remains as strong as ever under Tubby Smith.

A 15-1 start with wins over Memphis, Stanford, Florida State, Michigan State and Illinois gave the Gophers their first Top-10 ranking since the vacated 1996-97 season. It also solidified their place in NCAA tournament projections, as they were a solid No. 3 seed, if not higher.

Luckily for Minnesota, their early-season charge and immensely difficult conference schedule outweighs that recent swoon of losses.

Top-15 rankings in RPI (13) and non-conference strength of schedule (12) combined with Top-10 slots for overall strength of schedule (3), opponent strength of schedule (7) and non-conference RPI (2) bode well for Tubby Smith.

The Gophers' conference-opening victory over Michigan State is easily their biggest résumé-booster, but also hold Top 50 RPI wins over Memphis and Illinois. The defeat of the Spartans might be enough to outweigh their lone 50-plus RPI loss to Northwestern in January.

Joe Lunardi of ESPN has dropped the Gophers from that No. 3 seed to No. 6 in his February 12 Bracketology. This came following the Northwestern defeat and subsequent losses to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois. That seed could easily be bumped up with season-defining victories in the next two weeks as they welcome both Wisconsin and Indiana to Williams Arena.

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Their remaining schedule features those two Top 40 RPI teams in Wisconsin (31) and Indiana (11) but also a crucial trip to Ohio State (23) on February 20.

What does this all mean?

Minnesota must win at least three of its seven remaining games in order to have a shot at a No. 8 seed or better. However, their matchup with the Badgers Thursday is nearly a must-win if they expect a semi-friendly road in March.

A one-and-done come tourney time will not sit well with the "U" administration, making the next four weeks imperative to Tubby's future in Minneapolis.

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