March Madness: Could Colton Iverson Get Minnesota Off the Bubble?

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIMarch 13, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 11:  Center Colton Iverson #45 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers grabs a rebound during the first round game against the Penn State Nittany Lion in the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 11, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Judging by the 6'10" sophomore's performance against Michigan State on Friday night, Colton Iverson could be just what the doctor ordered for a Minnesota Golden Gopher tournament run.

The Gophers (20-12) are on the proverbial bubble but strengthened their playoff bid's case with a 72-67 win over the Spartans in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.

Iverson doesn't typically rack up a truck load of minutes, but he was effective in the 27 minutes that Gopher coach Tubby Smith assigned to him.

The sophomore finished with 12 points before he administered a love tap to Michigan State's Kalin Lucas which caused him to foul out with just minutes to play in regulation.

Minnesota's guards Devoe Joseph and Lawrence Westbrook have been past keys to its success, but it could be the lanky kid from Yankton, S.D., that holds the Gophers tournament hopes in his hands.

Iverson's showing against the 11th-ranked Spartans could be construed as a call for more minutes. When the Gophers needed an inside presence, he was there—all 6-foot-10 of him.

Although he collected only four rebounds, Iverson gave Izzo's club headaches as they attempted to retrieve missed field-goal opportunities.

A little extra vigor on the glass—and smarter play pertaining to when and when not to foul—Iverson could boost the Gophers into the real madness: the Big Dance.

Does a win over conference powerhouse Michigan State mean that Minnesota's golden ticket for the ball has been punched?

Not necessarily, but it sure does help.

There's no guarantee on being invited to the dance unless the Gophers sweep their remaining opponents and take home a Big Ten Tournament Title.

That's easier said than done, because next on Smith's boys' list are the Boilermakers of Purdue.

Matt Painter's crew escaped an upset at the hands of Northwestern by winning 69-61 and are looking to add a tournament playoff crown to their already impressive regular season resume.

The Gophers are going to need their bigs to play a vital role in its tournament equation: both of them, not just Iverson.

"Inconsistent" doesn't exactly sum up the play of Smith's other big man, Ralph Sampson III. Perhaps "struggling" would be a better use of words. Sampson III also clocked in for 12 minutes just like Iverson—the only difference was that he failed to sink a bucket.

It's going to take more than just swift guard play for Minnesota's golden boys to topple Purdue.

Westbrook and Joseph are the engine of the Gophers' machine, but the keys are firmly within Iverson's grasp at the moment.