The Gophers are probably headed to the NIT. Minnesota has asked the NCAA to invite them to the NIT if they don't make the NCAAs. With an already-infamous buzzer-beater — Blake Hoffarber's game winner over Indiana is already a hit on YouTube — there's also a good chance that Minnesota will have a chance to host a game when the NIT begins Tuesday.
If for some reason Minnesota doesn't get into the NIT (better teams didn't make it last season), they'll have to try out the CBI, the newest postseason tournament.
Even if the Gophers only make the NIT, it can be considered an accomplishment. And if for some reason Kentucky doesn't make the NCAAs, there's a chance that Tubby Smith might meet his old team at some point during the postseason. And that makes for good TV.
And he knows all about that after watching Hoffarber's infamous shot in the Big Ten tourney.
ILLINOIS 54, MINNESOTA 50: There was magic in the air when Minnesota guard Blake Hoffarber hit a turnaround jumper with 1.5 seconds on the clock to give the Gophers an upset win over Indiana in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. But the thriller didn't repeat itself Saturday when Minnesota faced Illinois, a team that's now beaten the Gophers 20 times in a row.
The Illini didn't pull away the way they did in past games against Minnesota. But they did make more clutch plays down the stretch, while Minnesota struggled with foul trouble, poor shooting and exhaustion from the emotional high of their improbable win over Indiana.
Hoffarber's shot concluded a series of incredulous events. D.J. White was fouled twice and shot four free throws in the game's final 10 seconds. He only hit one but it was enough to give Indiana a 58-57 lead, as thousands of Hoosiers fans that'd traveled to the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis from Bloomington, Ind., cheered them on.
Their victory seemed almost a given, based on their two wins against Minnesota earlier this season. But Minnesota stepped up to shockingly steal a 59-58 victory. The win puts them in the middle of a hotly debated NCAA tourney bubble conversation.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Dan Coleman, C Spencer Tollackson, G Lawrence Westbrook, G Lawrence McKenzie, G Kevin Payton. Key Subs — G Blake Hoffarber; F Damian Johnson.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When Blake Hoffarber is your leading scorer, you've got issues." — Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith, after his team lost its 19th straight game against Illinois. The Illini grabbed 45 rebounds compared to Minnesota's 19.
Illinois 67, Minnesota 58
Minnesota 55, Northwestern 52 (Big Ten tournament first round)
Minnesota 59, Indiana 58 (Big Ten tournament quarterfinal)
Illinois 54, Minnesota 50 (Big Ten tournament semifinal)
Awaiting potential postseason tournament invite.