Feb 26, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Led by Minnesota Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe (32) the bench cheers during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Williams Arena. The Gophers defeated number one ranked Hoosiers 77-73. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Basketball: Can the Gophers be Giant Killers?

Mar 14, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Rodney Williams (33) battles for a rebound with Illinois Fighting Illini guard/forward Myke Henry (20) in the second half during the first round of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center. Illinois won 51-49. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN contributing writer Jordan Brenner recently released a list of teams he called “Giant Killers” and put the Gophers at No. 2 on his list of 10 teams that could surprise in the NCAA Tournament.

We’re flattered and all, but as very recent history as shown, Minnesota has struggled closing out on mediocre Big Ten teams i.e. Nebraska, Purdue and Illinois.

Brenner justifies his ranking by mentioning Minnesota’s 15-1 start (and subsequently the Gophers’ 5-11 finish), but as he goes on to say, “the Gophers have shown that they can challenge anyone” with wins over Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin this season.

Maybe they’ve been miscast all season as a top power-conference team. Maybe they’re just a prime Giant Killer. Their rating speaks to that idea.

After talking about Minnesota’s steal percentage and strength at offensive rebounding, Brenner says Minnesota’s formula this season is the recipe for what he calls the Giant Killers secret sauce (um okay).

So Minnesota isn’t just a good Killer. It is a good team, despite the way it finished the season.

As the fan and not a Giant Killer expert, the Gophers look like they’ll face an early NCAA Tournament exit. Sure they beat the Spartans, Badgers and Hoosiers, but Minnesota has also lost to each of those teams this season.

The only season-sweep the Gophers have this season was against Penn State, winning their only game the two teams played, but outside of the Nittany Lions, Minnesota has not won two games against any conference opponent this season.

That list includes Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan State and Indiana.

As the seedings are announced on Sunday, all Minnesota can do is cross their fingers for a favorable match up and hope that a Big Ten team isn’t standing in their way early in the tournament if they do break out of the first round.

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