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NCAA Tournament Bracketology: Gopher Basketball Clearly on NCAA Tournament Bubble

Kevin C. Cox

There are many ways to look at the NCAA Tournament and who who is going to make their way into the Big Dance. It is important to look at our own resume (which we'll do), it is important to get a glance at the resumes of other teams on or near the bubble (which we'll do) and it is also important to look at exactly how many spots are realistically up for grabs. This we have not done yet, but as we inch closer to Selection Sunday, now maybe is a good time to do so.

It is always worth mentioning that there are still 2-3 weeks left in the season. Teams still have time to work their way into our out of The Tourney. Minnesota is trending the wrong way, slowly slipping off the bubble, but with two ranked opponents on the schedule this week they have an opportunity to get themselves back on the right side of the cut-line.

Following the Gopher's ugly loss to Illinois and even uglier loss at Ohio State (uglier for a very different reason), it is time to look again at the Gopher resume and where they stand in the NCAA Tournament pecking order.

The Resume

Current Record: 16-11 (6-9)
Current RPI: 43
Strength of Schedule: 7
Record vs. RPI top 50: 3-7
Record vs. RPI top 100: 5-9
RPI Top 100 Wins: Wisconsin (5), Ohio State (18), @Richmond (46), Florida State (55), Indiana (97)
Bad Worst Losses: @Purdue (120), Northwestern (116), Illinois (85), Arkansas (70)

The resume really has not been strengthened since our win over Indiana (97) on Feb 8.

How Many Spots (Bubble-Math)

There are 32 automatic bids for the NCAA Tournament that come from conference tournament winners. So this leaves the selection committee with 36 at-large bids to hand out. Many of those openings are pretty well determined with teams like Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, Texas and other power conference teams having already done more than enough to warrant a bid but are not currently the best team in their conference. By my count there are 23 teams that are locks to make the tournament, regardless of what happens in the final 2 weeks. This widdles down the amount of available bids to 13. Of the teams remaining there are 9 in my estimation who are currently safe. Their level of security is still dependent on what they do in the final two weeks but it seems likely that unless they dramatically struggle, they should be OK.

The math?

  • 32 auto bids
  • 23 locks
  • 9 "safe" (4 that I would classify as relatively safe and could fall back if they are not careful)
  • 4 spots up for grabs!

All teams fighting for these four remaining bids are the ones officially on "The Bubble" and this is squarely where the Gophers sit after dropping three of their last four. The Gophers and 10 other teams are fighting for these final, coveted spots. This is my bubble list.

Bubble Teams

These are the teams we are now actively rooting against!

Lunardi Seed Palm Bracket Bracket Matrix Team Record RPI SOS Rec vs. Top 50 Streak Last Game Upcoming Arbitrary Grouping
9 8 9 Stanford 18-8 40 45 4-5 3W W #23 UCLA @ASU, @AZ Safe
7 10 10 SMU 22-6 37 117 4-3 2W W @ #21 UConn UCF, Lville Safe
10 9 9 Colorado 20-8 26 12 4-7 1L L #4 Arizona @Utah, @Stan Safe
9 10 10 California 18-9 51 51 3-6 1W W USC @AZ, @ASU Safe
10 9 10 Baylor 16-9 39 8 5-7 4W W @ WVU @Tex, TTU Safe
11 11 10 Missouri 19-8 45 62 1-2 1L L @ Bama @UGA, MissSt Relatively Safe
11 10 11 Saint Joe's 19-7 38 66 2-5 4W W Forham Dayton, @StBon Relatively Safe
10 11 11 Xavier 18-9 59 68 1-3 1L L @ G'town @SJU, Crei Relatively Safe
12 11 11 Oklahoma St 17-10 49 25 3-9 1W W TexTech @TCU, Kansas Relatively Safe
11 OUT 12 BYU 19-10 32 29 3-5 3W W Portland @USD Bubble
11 10 12 St. John's 18-10 52 33 1-5 1L L @ #9 Nova Xav, DeP Bubble
11 N4O F4O Tennessee 15-11 60 16 1-5 1L L @TexAM @MissST, Vandy Bubble
12 11 F4O Providence 18-10 61 54 1-4 1W W @Butler @SHall, Marq Bubble
N4O 11 11 Oregon 18-8 41 40 1-5 3W W WashSt @USC, @ASU Bubble
F4O F4O 11 Minnesota 16-11 46 7 3-7 2L L @ #24 Ohio St Iowa, @Mich Bubble
F4O 12 N4O Dayton 19-8 54 78 2-5 6W W @ Duq @StJoe, UMass Bubble
F4O F4O F4O Richmond 18-9 46 50 2-6 1W W LaSalle @GMU, @URI Bubble
N4O F4O N4O Nebraska 16-10 48 24 3-7 5W W Purdue @ILL, NW Bubble
N4O 12 N4O Georgetown 16-11 64 27 3-4 1W W Xavier @Marq, Crei Work to do
F4O OUT OUT Florida State 16-11 55 34 3-7 1W W @Pitt GTech, @BC Work to do

At the top you have wins over ranked teams for Stanford and SMU. That helps keep you above the bubble-fray. Colorado notched a nice win over Arizona State before falling to #4 Arizona over this past weekend and Cal will get to face those same two teams this coming weekend, which should have a significant impact on their place on this list.

Xavier has an interesting week coming up. They will head to St. John's for a match-up of two bubble teams and then they will host #11 Creighton. Much like I just discussed in regards to Cal, these next two games will have an impact on their place on this list prior to the Big East Tournament.

BYU is playing their way INTO the tournament after beating Saint Mary's, #25 Gonzaga and then Portland to win three straight. Just one game left for the Cougars, one they should win to give them a 4-game winning streak heading into the WCC Tourney.

I believe that Dayton is currently behind Minnesota but they have rattled off six straight against the bottom portion of the A10. Now they'll have two big opportunities this week traveling to Saint Joseph's and then hosting UMAss. If they stay hot they may find themselves passing bubble teams on their way into the Tournament.

Minnesota, as of today, probably is on the outside looking in. And the few teams that I think are probably directly in front of them have a much easier schedule ahead of them. Oregon gets last place USC as their only game this week. Providence also only has one game this week and it is a trip to 5-9 Seton Hall. Tennessee goes to Mississippi St (3-11) and hosts Vandy (7-7). And of course we know that the Gophers get to host #20 Iowa and head to #16 Michigan. Opportunities to win big games are there for us, just getting one would move us up the list considerably.

Florida State was in danger of completely falling off the map but notched a very nice road win over Pittsburgh this weekend. Their next two games are very winable and they stand a chance of making themselves relevant again in bubble conversations.

Lastly, Nebraska who has five straight, 7 of their last 8 and doesn't face one of the Big Ten's top 5 teams until they host Wisconsin for the last regular season game of the year. A scenario where they win their next three games would see their RPI continue to rise and they would likely be making an appearance in the four-letter tournament instead of the three-letter one. They are playing very well right now.


There you have it, this is where I believe things stand with 2 weeks of regular season games remaining. The Gophers have some work to do with opportunities to do it. Unfortunately their execution on offense and their awareness on defense have been rather suspect over the last few weeks. These things are kind of important if you want to make a push to get into the NCAA Tournament. But we have seen them play well in stretches, they need to play well for 40 minutes and avoid prolonged stretches of not scoring.

I'm dying for this team to put it together for a couple more wins and play their way in. The NCAA Tournament is my favorite weekend of the year and having the Gophers playing in the first round makes that weekend just outstanding. Make it happen!

DATA: For those of you wondering who my 23 locks were, here they are. My 9 "safe" teams are on the table above. I left off the conference's current 1st place team. If one of the following teams were to win their conference tournament, that 1st place team would still certainly be a lock.

LOCK Conference
Louisville American
Memphis American
UConn American
UMass A10
GW A10
Syracuse ACC
Duke ACC
North Carolina ACC
Pitt ACC
Iowa St Big 12
Oklahoma Big 12
Texas Big 12
Kansas St Big 12
Villanova Big East
Michigan St Big Ten
Wisconsin Big Ten
Ohio St Big Ten
Iowa Big Ten
New Mexico MW
UCLA Pac 12
Arizona St Pac 12
Kentucky SEC