Welcome to the tournament before the tournament friends!
As I'm sure you're all aware, the Gophers locked up the #7 seed on Sunday and earned the right to face Penn State again in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. This was a forgone conclusion if you assumed a Gopher win, as the only real seeding drama still outstanding on Sunday afternoon/evening was whether Nebraska could beat UW and lock up the #4 seed and a first round bye. Now that Nebrasketball fans have finally cleared the court, I'd like to take a look at how the bracket looks for the Gophers. I'll also look at it from the viewpoint of a few other fanbases and then drop some worthless predictions on you.
We Have Always Been At War With Penn State
Seriously. I think the B1G is trying to tell us something. It is in that spirit that I now celebrate the desecration of their favorite statue:
Moving along. I'm not sure there's really much to say about this matchup. The first time out the Gophers shot the ball poorly and matched PSU's turnover rate. The second game was a different story, with Minnesota outshooting Pen State by a significant margin and forcing the Nittany Lions to hand the ball back more frequently. If this matchup is feels a bit like Groundhog Day it means we want less of this...
...and more of of this.
Simple right? And ultimately it is. Minnesota is the better team and if they can get consistently dominant post performance out of Mo or Elliott (especially Mo) while winning the turnover battle, then it will likely take a lights out shooting performance by PSU or the cold streak to end all cold streaks from the Gopher guards to cost Minnesota this game. The latter is a pretty big caveat given what we've seen from this team at times, but in the end I think the Gophers have what it takes to put Penn State away for a third time.
When Do I Break Out My Dancing Shoes?
You can break them out if Minnesota beats Penn State, but there is no guarantee you'll get to use them come Selection Sunday. Many of the bracketologists seem down on Minnesota and are saying they need to win two games to make it in. When I look at some of the other bubble teams they have pretty safely in however I begin to question whether or not they'll be right. As I've said before, I suspect it comes down to what metrics the committee choose to emphasize. Minnesota's strength of schedule stands alone among bubble teams. Some other bubble squads with similar RPI's seem to be getting in based on their conference records, despite the fact that their conferences were weaker. Without knowing how the committee will evaluate these groups of bubble teams head to head I'm not sure what to think. Personally, I think Minnesota gets in with one more win unless there is a rash of bubble stealing that happens in the coming days. But assuming they don't, let's take a look at the rest of their road in the BTT.
A win against Penn State means another game against Wisconsin. While another PSU victory might not lock the Gophers into the NCAA's a second BTT win against Wisconsin certainly would. Ultimately I'm not sure I could think of anything sweeter than punching a ticket to the Dance with a second win over Wisconsin.
Assuming that wonderful outcome happens, what then? My best guess is that the Gophers would face Michigan State in the semi-finals with an outside chance that they'd see Iowa. A win against Michigan State would take Minnesota off the bubble and would improve their seeding slightly. A win against Iowa would also get them off the bubble, but I don't think it would do nearly as much for their seed. My best guess? A win over MSU gets Minnesota onto the 10 line while Iowa puts them in as an 11.
Now that we're daydreaming, let's talk about what would happen if the Gophers managed to win the whole BTT. While I assume that they'd play Michigan, I could also see them facing off against Ohio State or Nebraska in this game. A win against Michigan would lock in a 10 seed and maybe bring a 9 seed into play. A win against either OSU or Nebby would at best get them a 10.
BTT #TAKES and Predictions
- If I'm an Indiana or Illinois fan I'm pretty happy. Your team is essentially out of tourney conversation, but if you win your first game and pull a major upset against Michigan (which is the sort of huge W you have to assume if you're creating magic bid steal scenarios) the only thing standing in between you and a spot in the BTT Finals is OSU or Nebby. That's a much better looking matchup than either MSU or Wisconsin, no?
- OSU would like to thank Iowa for taking the six seed. If you're going to have to play a game instead of enjoying a bye I'd want to see Nebraska over Michigan State, wouldn't you?
- First round games ranked in order of competitiveness from least to most competitive:
Illinois def Indiana
Ohio State def Purdue
Minnesota def Penn State
Iowa def Northwestern
Michigan def Illinois
Ohio State def Nebraska
Wisconsin def Minnesota
Michigan State def Iowa
Michigan def Ohio State
Michigan State def Wisconsin
Michigan def Michigan State - Michigan earns a #1 seed as a result.