Penn State defeated Minnesota Saturday, 68-63, as Talor Battle returned to the "leading scorer" column with 21 points to lead the Nittany Lions. The bubble watch implications, however, were much more important than the actual game results.
It once looked like a foregone conclusion that Minnesota was on their way to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005. Now, Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers have lost three of their last four games. In fact, they have gone 3-5 since running their record to 16-1 -- and two of those three wins were against conference doormat Indiana.
Minnesota still sits in decent shape, having a 19-6 overall record and still sporting a winning record in the conference. Their RPI is in good enough shape that they'd make the Big Dance should it start today. Of course, they've been pretty bad on the road of late, and still have to visit Michigan and Illinois -- not to mention hosting a now-rejuvenated Wisconsin squad. To summarize, they should be ok, but they need to play much better than they have in the past month. By no means is this team definitely dancing.
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As for Penn State, they desperately needed to win this game in order to stay relevant to NCAA Tourney discussions. The win pushed them to 18-8 with a 7-6 conference record, and both figures look nice in the second-ranked conference (via RPI). The problem is that their RPI -- likely to fall in the mid-70s after this win -- is still completely unacceptable for a tourney resume, as their non-conference schedule strength was brutal. While today was nice, they travel to Illinois and Ohio State within the next ten days, and will likely be dead and buried by February 25th.