MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team finds itself in rare position at this year’s Big Ten Tournament.
There is no pressure for the Gophers, who face Michigan State in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon. The Spartans beat Penn State 78-51 in second round action on Thursday to advance in the Big Ten Tournament. Regardless of Friday’s outcome, the Gophers are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
They got that far by winning eight straight games in Big Ten play and finished 11-7 overall in league play. It was enough to earn Richard Pitino the Big Ten Coach of the Year award. Nate Mason was selected First-Team All Big Ten, Jordan Murphy earned Third Team honors and Reggie Lynch was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
While there isn’t any pressure to secure a bid to the Big Dance, the Gophers want to get some momentum going into next week. That’s especially after losing to Wisconsin to end the regular season.
Minnesota is also looking to avenge two losses to the Spartans this year. The Gophers had a 14-point lead over Michigan State in the Big Ten opener, but lost in overtime 75-74. Minnesota also lost at Michigan State, 65-47.
The Big Ten Tournament is being held in Washington, D.C. It’s the first time the event has been held in our Nation’s Capitol. The tournament had switched between Indianapolis and Chicago, but it’s part of the league’s initiative to expand. With that came the acquiring of Rutgers and Maryland to the conference.
There are plenty of Big Ten fans who live in the area.
“I’m excited, I couldn’t miss it. I don’t have last period so my principal allowed me to come down here and celebrate the opportunity. Support my green and white,” Michigan State fan Franklin Weaver said.
“Yeah visiting D.C. is always a good time and before it was in Indianapolis and Chicago so what better way to see D.C. than to travel for the fournament?” Michigan fan Kristin Hammett said.
The Gophers (23-8, 11-7) face the Spartans in the second quarterfinal on Friday at about 1:30 p.m.