What is a miracle? Does it have a specific definition? Or does it have specific qualifications it needs to adhere to? Many would say that there needs to be some sort of divine or religious entity involved for an event to be considered a miracle. Whether or not that is a fact is a conversation for philosophers. I am not a philosopher, I just write about basketball. What I can say in regards to miracles, is that the Minnesota Gophers need one. Regardless of your connotation, Richard Pitino’s team needs some sort of phenomenon to occur.
As it stands right now, the absolute best Minnesota can finish is 21-10 with an 10-8 Big Ten record, that is actually quite formidable given what the team has gone through. With only seven conference games remaining, their margin for error is as thin as it gets. They can only afford to lose, at maximum, one more game this season. It is also worth noting that they still have games against Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan left on their slate. All three of those games will be match-ups where the Gophers are massive underdogs. Not to mention, two of those three games are on the road in West Lafayette and Ann Arbor.
The rest of their schedule has them facing Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. They dropped games to the Huskers and Hoosiers, but obviously those results should not carry over into these contests. However, regardless of past results, all four of those games are winnable. Yet, two of them will be at Williams Arena with two road games.
A longstanding question with this team, to take a saying from Hillary Clinton, is what happened? Like Clinton, we still have no concrete answers to that question, only speculation and investigations. Oddly enough, both of those factors work well with trying to answer where the Gophers went wrong. Yes, the suspension of Reggie Lynch coupled with the injury to Amir Coffey hurt. That double whammy came when the Gophers were still only 2-2 in conference play. They now sit at 3-8, going 1-6 since losing Lynch.
Coffey has returned and played in two games before missing last night’s loss to Iowa. So, the bleeding was momentarily stopped, but Minnesota has continued to lose games, going 0-3 since Coffey’s return from the extended absence. Even though they struggled in the absence of Coffey and Lynch, they had issues long before that. Most of that stems from a lack of depth. The poor bench play has only been exacerbated now that Lynch is gone.
That has put more pressure on Jordan Murphy, who has not seen the level of success he enjoyed early in the season. Opposing defenses have now been able to key in on Murphy due to the lack of a supplemental post presence. Against a team like Purdue or Michigan State, Murphy may be completely neutralized. In turn, that puts most of the offensive responsibility on Nate Mason and Coffey. Those two cannot carry the Gophers to wins over teams like the Boilermakers and Spartans.
I am not saying that a miracle or something of that sort is out of the question, it just seems very unlikely at this point. Unfortunately, Minnesota pulled probably one the more difficult February schedules of any Big Ten team. That does not bode well for a prolonged stroke of good fortune. I am more inclined to believe that Minnesota will lose the rest of their conference games rather than win them. As bad as that is to say, it is the truth, as I see it.
Think about it, the one team Minnesota has a semi-advantage over is Iowa, a team they lost to last night. They are fairly evenly matched against Wisconsin, so you cannot make a conclusive judgement regarding that game. Also, the mental strain the Badgers hold over Richard Pitino is immense as he has yet to beat them in his tenure. The other five games will see Minnesota as the underdog too.
We have seen miracles take place in sports before. In fact, we have seen it just this past month, in Minneapolis no less. Obviously this is a different circumstance, but it is worth mentioning. One thing is for sure, the Minnesota Gophers need some sort of divine providence in February.