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Projecting the Gopher NCAA Tournament Seed

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While we are basking in the glory of last night's win, I'm already looking ahead. I keep a pretty sharp eye on bracketology stuff and the Gophers have an interesting resume that make them maybe the most disagreed upon team in this year's bracket. What do I mean by that?

Well, looking at the Bracket Matrix (a site that compiles dozens of bracket predictions) the Gophers are projected to be anywhere between a 4 and an 11 seeded team. That is a HUGE swing and what is interesting is that none of the other teams around them have nearly that kind of variance in their seeding. San Diego State is one spot ahead of the Gophers in this consensus ranking and they are seeded between 6 and 11. VCU is right behind the Gophers and are between 6-9. You get the idea.

The thing about the Gophers is they have a really strong resume when it comes to traditional NCAA Selection Committee standards. An RPI of 15 and a strength of schedule at #1, those numbers jump off the page and are usually next to teams that are going to be a 4 seed or higher. On top of that they have a number of wins over highly ranked teams (Mich St, Indiana, Wis, Memphis). But to go along with those peripherals the Gophers also have been terrible lately losing 8 of their last 11 (before the Indiana win) including back-to-back 20+ point losses. So the question of where do the Gophers belong is intriguing.

Let's take a look at a long list of teams that are ahead of and behind the Gophers in the general 6-10 seed range. This list is derived from Lunardi's updated S-Curve which he uses to inform his bracket predictions.

Lunardi S-Curve Lunardi Proj Seed Bracket Matrix Avg Seed Team Record RPI SOS Record vs. RPI Top 50 Remaining Opponents
21 6 5 Pittsburgh 21-7 37 45 2-6 USF, Nova, @DePaul
24 6 5 Butler 21-6 31 60 5-4 @VCU, @UMass, Xav
20 5 6 Notre Dame 22-6 40 79 5-3 @Marq, SJU, @L'Ville
22 6 6 Colorado St 19-6 17 24 3-5 Frsno, @Boise, @Wyo, Nev
23 6 6 Saint Louis 21-5 34 72 4-2 @GW, @Xav, LaSalle
25 7 7 Oregon 22-6 49 99 3-4 OreSt, @Col, @Utah
29 8 7 Memphis 24-4 18 70 2-3 @UCF, @UTEP, UAB
31 8 7 NC State 19-8 24 17 3-5 BC, @GT, Wake, @FSU
33 9 7 Illinois 19-9 33 7 5-7 Neb, @Iowa, @OSU
26 7 8 San Diego St 20-7 32 38 4-5 @NewMex, UAF, @Boise
28 7 8 VCU 22-6 36 77 2-5 But, Rich, @Tem
34 9 8 Minnesota 19-9 15 1 5-7 PSU, @Neb, @Pur
35 9 8 Oklahoma 18-8 19 6 2-5 @Tex, ISU, WVU, @TCU
27 7 9 UCLA 20-7 41 41 4-4 AZ, @WashSt, @Wash
30 8 9 North Carolina 18-8 23 11 2-6 @Clem, FSU, @Md, Duke
32 8 9 Missouri 19-8 42 57 3-4 @S Car, LSU, Ark, @Tenn
36 9 9 Wichita St 24-5 28 98 3-0
(all 25+)
Evan, @Creighton
37 10 10 Cincinnati 19-9 50 31 3-7 UConn, @L'Ville, USF
38 10 10 Colorado 18-8 29 19 4-3 @Stan, @Cal, Ore, OreSt

When I look at each of the teams and you compare them one-on-one with the Gophers, it makes me wonder why we are not higher. It has to be the 3-8 record which had the Gophers trending negatively. But when the committee gets together and looks at our resume, I believe that we are going to grade out higher than most of the teams ahead of us. Much of my assumption is based on an assumption that we will win our final 3 games of the season. Even with a loss at Purdue, our resume is going to look very strong in comparison to others.

For example, look at the Gophers up next to Illinois.

Illinois Minnesota
Record 19-9 (7-8) 19-9 (7-8)
Head-2-Head split
Record vs. RPI top 50 5-7 5-7
RPI / SOS 33 / 7 15 / 1
Big Wins Ind, Zaga, MN, OSU Ind, MichSt, Mem, Wis

Someone please explain to me why the Illini are a consensus higher seed that the Gophers? It is because they stunk in January, we've been terrible in February. But that wont' matter as much in 2 weeks when the committee is looking at full resumes (again, assuming we finish strong). Do the same with NC State, San Diego St or Colorado State. And several other teams are ranked higher based on their overall record being 3 or 4 games stronger than the Gophers. But Minnesota getting to 23 or 24 wins gets the Gophers to a stronger win total, in the strongest conference with a great RPI/SOS.

So here is what I believe.

  • I believe that the Gophers will win all three remaining regular season games and then will win at least 1 in the Big Ten Tourney (as a 6-seed getting to face Nebraska). This will get them to 23 wins and with some wins in March I believe this will move the up the seeding food-chain.
  • I believe that the Committee has a long history of rewarding teams that have a strong strength of schedule as well as relying on RPI to inform their seeding. We have very good numbers for both.
  • I believe that when the bracket is released the Gophers will be a team seeded higher than most analysts predict.
  • I believe we end up a 5 or 6 seed. 2 Big Ten Tourney wins would lock us in at a 5.
  • Losing at Purdue and then just get 1 win in BTT might change things but this 8 or 9-seed business is a reaction to the 11 games prior to the Indiana win. It may have been a legitimate reaction but it will subside in the coming weeks.

So what we are doing now is keeping an eye on the list above rooting for the teams above us to lose. This will all be for naught if we go out and lose at Nebraska or some unthinkable thing like that. But we are riding high after that win and we have momentum as we face some significantly lesser talented teams.