Yes, abysmal. That’s just about the only way you can describe last night’s game. The one where the Gophers managed 49 points against bottom-dwelling Illinois. At home. In a game that would have put them one win away from an NCAA Tournament bid.
But, hey, that’s Gopher basketball. If you’re not used to it by now, welcome to the club.
The game? Well, it sucked. The Gophers did what they generally shouldn’t do, which is shoot poorly and turn the ball over. For a team that tends to rely on its shooting, going 37% from the field is pretty much a death knell. And that’s exactly what it was. Yet, even though it wasn’t the team’s night from the field, they still decided to try to force it. That’s how you end up going a mind-numbing 4-25 from beyond the arc. I’m pretty confident I could do that well with my eyes closed.
But why the snark? Well, this game was important for a lot of reasons. With the Gophers oh-so-close to locking up a tournament bid, a win over a extremely beatable Illinois team would have put them in position to win just one more game out their final four. They were in the driver’s seat in terms of controlling their tournament destiny. Instead, they now have to not only win the season finale against Penn State, but they need to take down one of either Ohio State, Iowa or Michigan, each of which is ranked in the top 25.
Did the Gophers look past Illinois? Who knows. But a loss at this juncture in the season against a team that has nothing to play for, WHILE PLAYING AT HOME is simply inexcusable. Of course, the Gophers have played down to their opponents all season, so it really isn’t all that surprising at this point. In fact, the reality might be that this team is the 7th or 8th best team in the conference. There’s nothing wrong with that in Pitino’s first year, it’s simply frustrating when they’ve shown they can play better basketball than this. And with wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State, it’s sickening to think that the team has now lost to Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois. That a weak cast of characters.
Illinois wasn’t a “must-win” game, but it certainly was a “should win”. And the Gophers won’t face a must-win situation for another couple games if they keep losing. But now that they’ve put themselves in catch-up mode, the opportunities to secure a tournament bid now seem frighteningly sparse.
- The #Gophers were nailed for two inbounds violations. Which, apparently, are a thing. Both Elliott Eliason and Austin Hollins didn’t fully step out of bounds to inbounds the basketball after Illinois made a shot. Utterly unbelievable.