The Gophers could wait to seal their NCAA women’s basketball tournament fate until the first weekend in March in Indianapolis, when they look to make a run in the Big Ten tournament.
Or, they could go 2-0 in their next two games and make it awfully tough for the selection committee to overlook them on Selection Monday, March 12.
The Gophers could use another victory or two against ranked opponents to sharpen their résumé, and they’ve got two opportunities coming up at home. Michigan, ranked 23rd in the latest AP poll, comes to town Wednesday night at Williams Arena. Big Ten leader Maryland, No. 10, visits at noon Sunday.
A 2-0 sweep of ranked teams in the middle of a four-game homestand that already has one impressive victory in the books — 101-68 over Penn State on Sunday — would put the Gophers (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble. Going into the Michigan game, ESPN has Minnesota, which received two points in the latest AP poll, as one of the first four teams on the wrong side of that bubble.
Michigan (20-7, 9-5) is predicted to be a No. 9 seed in the tournament by ESPN’s Charlie Creme, and Maryland (22-3, 11-1) a No, 3 seed.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of Wednesday night’s game. The Gophers have just one victory over a team that was ranked at the time this season (77-72 vs. then-No. 20 Iowa on Jan. 21), compared to two losses. Minnesota’s RPI ranking is No. 46. A loss could drop them below the top 50. Victory No. 20 also would be a magic number of sorts.
Also in play: Big Ten standings and tournament seeding. The Gophers are in fourth place and Michigan is in fifth; the top four teams get a double bye in the Big Ten tournament.
After Maryland, the Gophers finish their four-game homestand vs. Indiana on Feb. 20 before the regular-season finale at Illinois on Feb. 25. Indiana and Illinois are eighth and 14th in the Big Ten standings, respectively.