Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
There was brief discussion here and I have heard other discussion around the radio dial about the Gopher resume and where would sit in relation to the NCAA Bubble, particularly if we would have lost last night to Wisconsin. Which we didn't. So this post is less about what it is going to take to stay well above the bubble fray and more about where do we stand, how strong is our resume and what will it mean for seeding.
I was convinced before the Wisconsin game that barring a major collapse (i.e. losing to likes of Nebraska and Penn State en route to just one or two more wins), we were still a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. With every loss we would fall closer to the bubble but assuming 3 more wins, we would stay on the right side of the bubble. My reasoning is two-fold.
- We have a very good resume including some big wins, only one bad loss, high RPI and really high SOS.
- There are a lot of teams behind us. Part of falling out of the tournament means that someone played their way in. With 20+ teams sitting behind us but still considered "in" that means every one of those teams PLUS just one team on the outside would have to play their way into the dance. Considering they were behind us to begin with, they clearly have some warts of their own and I'm guessing few of them would be able to overcome those issues over the next few weeks. Let me illustrate.
Joe Lunardi's full-time job this time of year is to predict the bracket and seed it appropriately. He uses his own formula, he isn't necessarily the most accurate over time but he is still very good and kind of the major-media standard. Anyway, prior to yesterday's set of games there were 23 teams behind the Gophers were were still considered safe with an at-large bid. Here is that list, including a few teams below the cut line.
(order of teams is as of 2/14, RPI/SOS/Record is post 2/14 games)
|San Diego St||29||35||16-6|
So even if the Gopher tank and finish the last six games 2-6 (plus another B1G Tourney loss) do you really think that Cal is going to leapfrog them somehow with their 15-9 record, 57 RPI and 32nd best SOS? I'd be shocked. My point is that I think we are safe, and I am quite confident that we would have been safe even with a loss to the Badgers last night. All of those teams below us, they have problems too. If there are teams without issues, teams without a bad loss or two? They are above the Gophers on this list. Those below would have to get out of their own way to surpass the Gophers, every single one of them. We are all frustrated, but I promise you it isn't as bad as it is at other programs (this year).
We are not a bubble team, so we move on to talk about where we belong, or better yet where we will end up, in the bracket. Besides our strong RPI and SOS we really don't have more than one bad loss, with a couple good wins. I posted this little chart before and it is worth looking at again.
|BAD Losses||Losses||Solid Wins||Good Wins||BIG Wins|
|RPI 100+||RPI 1-50||RPI 50-100||RPI 11-49||RPI Top 10|
|@ Northwestern (108)||Duke (1)
@ Michigan State (5) Michigan (6)
@ Indiana (12)
@ Wisconsin (32)
Florida State (63)
@ Illinois (28)
|Michigan State (5)|
One bad loss and then six others all to teams in the RPI top 32.
After last night's win, Lunardi has us as the 24th overall seed in the Tourney, obviously making us the lowest of the 6-seeds. Looking at the Bracket Matrix we are currently seeded anywhere from a 4-seed to an 7-seed (with one 3 and one 8, but I threw them out, kind of like figure skating scoring).
Similar to a bubble-watch post, I think it is a good to start looking at other teams around us on the S-Curve. Keeping any eye on what they do, plus what we do, should help us to see where we'll be seeded come Selection Sunday. For now I'll start looking at teams currently projected as a 4-seed through a 8-seed (22 teams on my list). As we get closer to the end of the season I'm sure the field of teams that we will be fighting with will narrow, but we'll start by casting a wide net. Maybe we get hot and move up to a 3-seed, maybe we really tank and finish as a 9, but if either of those scenarios happen we'll start moving our watch in that direction.
The teams around the Gophers based on current S-Curve projections
|San Diego St||29||35||16-6|
So what are we looking for over the next couple weeks? Two things and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure it out. 1-Win. 2-other teams around us lose. I'd really like to see the Gophers get higher than a 6-seed. 5 seems very much within our reach and a 4 seems like things would have to fall our way but we do have opportunities to earn it with games against Ohio State, Indiana and the Big Ten Tournament. Below is a quick rundown of some key games to watch for this weekend and who to cheer for.
- Minnesota at Iowa - Sunday - just win baby
- Ohio St at Wisconsin - Sunday - I think we are rooting for the Buckeyes. Give the Badgers a 2-game losing streak and the Gophers moves up to a 5-seed. We'll worry about catching OSU later.
- Georgetown at Cincy - Friday - Both teams are ahead of us and we have better peripherals than both. I don't really care who wins but I'll pull for Georgetown.
Baylor at Kansas St - Saturday - Go Bears. Baylor is clearly on the bubble but not likely to move up into the 6/7 seed range.
- Oklahoma at Oklahoma St - Saturday - another road team looking to move up and off the bubble. We should move ahead of the Cowboys with a Sooner win.
- Pitt at Marquette - Saturday - not sure it matters.
- Oregon at Washington St - Saturday - likely a win for the Ducks but a road loss would bump them down.
- Colorado St at Air Force - Saturday - road game for Rams but they blew out UAF by 39 earlier.
- San Diego St at UNLV - a likely loss for the Aztecs (or a huge win).
- UCLA at Stanford - a Cardinal win boosts our SOS a tiny bit and knocks down the Bruins
There are other games but they are ones where I feel like a loss would be a MAJOR upset and not likely worth keeping an eye on (Notre Dame vs. Providence for example).
More than anything it comes down to the Gophers winning games. Our RPI is very good, our Strength of Schedule is outstanding and we really have just one bad loss. Our resume is strong, we just need to add wins and put the 2-6 slide behind us.