After playing one of the toughest schedules in college basketball this year, the Gopher Basketball team earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. The Gophers (20-12) were granted a No. 11 seed and will face No. 6 UCLA (25-9) on Friday at the Frank Erwin Events Center in Austin, Texas.
This marks Minnesota's ninth NCAA Tournament berth and the third NCAA appearance in the Tubby Smith era. The Gophers earned a No. 11 seed in 2010 and lost to No. 6 Xavier in the first round in Milwaukee.
The Gophers were placed in the South region, with their pod in Austin. If they are able to advance, they will face the winner of No. 3 Florida (26-7) and No. 14 Northwestern State (23-8) on Sunday.
The Gophers have defeated five AP Top 25 opponents this season. Their body of work includes wins over No. 1 Indiana, No. 12 Illinois, No. 18 Michigan State, No. 19 Illinois and No. 20 Wisconsin. Minnesota has beaten 12 teams with an RPI rating in the top 100.
Senior forward Trevor Mbakwe and sophomore guard Andre Hollins earned Big Ten recognition for their play during the season. Mbakwe was given third-team honors by the coaches and second-team honors by the media, while Hollins was voted honorable mention by the coaches and third-team by the media.
This marks Tubby Smith's 17th trip to the NCAA Tournament in his 22nd season as a head coach. The Gophers' win against Penn State in their regular season finale gave Smith his 19th season with 20 or more wins. Minnesota has won at least 20 games in five of his six seasons at the helm. Smith is 29-15 all-time as a head coach at the NCAA Tournament.
The Gophers and 21st-ranked Bruins have played each other six times. The Gophers beat UCLA in the 1997 Elite Eight, a game which was later vacated. UCLA has won all five of the other matchups, with the most recent of the five coming in 1969. UCLA went 13-5 in the Pac-12 this season, losing to Oregon in the conference tournament final