MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team is playing its way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble after an 82-72 loss at Indiana Wednesday night.
The Gophers (13-9, 6-9) were comfortably in the Big Dance, according to most projections, heading into the contest. They now have a guaranteed four games left, and need to go at least 2-2 to feel good about their chances for an at-large bid on Selection Sunday, regardless of what happens at the Big Ten Tournament.
To add injury to insult, Gabe Kalscheur and Liam Robbins are hurt. Here are takeaways from Wednesday’s loss:
GOPHERS DROP TO 0-8 ON THE ROAD
It truly is a tale of two seasons for Minnesota. The Gophers are 13-1 at Williams Arena, and they’re now 0-8 on the road after the loss to the Hoosiers. With no fans in the building, there isn’t a home court advantage on the road. Indiana used a 13-1 run in the second half to build a lead, and the Gophers couldn't overcome it after shooting 3-of-16 from the field down the stretch.
They have one more road test left at Penn State, two if their game at Nebraska gets rescheduled. Pitino’s Gophers only went winless on the road one other time, during an 8-23 season. If nothing else than to build confidence, it would be nice for Minnesota to get a win on the road before there’s not another chance.
KALSCHEUR HURT, LIAM ROBBINS PLAYS HURT
The Gophers were dealt a big blow at the end of practice Tuesday, as Gabe Kalscheur broke a finger in his shooting hand and is out indefinitely. He’ll see a hand specialist when the team gets back to town. He was starting to find his shooting stroke, but his defense on the opponent’s best guard will be missed. Without him Wednesday, the Gophers shot just 4-of-20 from the perimeter. Center Liam Robbins is also playing through what Pitino describes as a significant ankle injury. He’s Minnesota’s top rebounder, and the leading shot blocker in the Big Ten. The Gophers need him healthy with Illinois and Kofi Cockburn coming to Minneapolis on Saturday.
JAMAL MASHBURN JR. HAS CAREER GAME
Jamal Mashburn Jr. had the best game of his young career Wednesday, scoring a season-high 19 points in his first career start, in 35 minutes. He attacked the Indiana defense and got to the free-throw line, and gave the Gophers another scoring option when others weren’t making shots.
TRE WILLIAMS STEPS UP
Tre Williams has started the last several games in place of Both Gach, and he’s making the most of his opportunity. He had nine of his 11 points in the first half, and was aggressive going to the basket. He also had two assists. The Gophers need more from him going forward if they have intentions of making the NCAA Tournament.
THE PATH TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
While Wednesday’s loss was a blow to the Gophers and puts them closer to the bubble, they still control their own destiny for the NCAA Tournament. They have five top-25 wins, tied for the most in school history, and get a chance for a sixth against Illinois on Saturday. Minnesota finishes its schedule with three of its final four at home against the Illini, Northwestern and Rutgers. They have a road game at Penn State, and they could still play at Nebraska. If the Gophers go no worse than 2-2 in the last four before the Big Ten Tournament, they’re an NCAA Tournament team.
But without Kalscheur and with Robbins limited, that’s a tougher challenge.