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NCAA Tournament Bracketology: Gophers and the Bubble on the Last Weekend of Regular Season Basketball

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To begin the week the Gophers were sitting just above the cut-line to make the NCAA Tournament.  They have been idle this week and while the Gophers watched, the rest of the bubble teams decided to all start winning.  The result is that we have been presumably been pushed back below the cut-line with this weekend remaining before teams head off to their conference tournaments.

As we get closer to Selection Sunday the bubble focus is beginning to narrow.  My last update looked 18 teams but now I think we are really looking at 8.  Eight teams fighting for probably 3 open spots.  Of course a team above the line could lose 2 in a row and their bid could come back into play for someone else.  And a team below these eight could make a run to their conference tournament title game and steal one of the three available.  But for now, with the information we have now, I believe there are 8 teams fighting for 3 spots.

Here is the chart with the eight teams on the bubble and below I'll talk in greater detail about each of them.  I'm actually including 11 teams (Stanford, Arkansas and BYU are the extras) but those top three I believe are pretty safe and it would take a significant upset (or two) to knock them from in to out.  It is the "Bubble" teams that you need to pay the most attention to.

Lunardi Seed SBN Bracket Bracket Matrix Team Record RPI SOS Rec vs. Top 50 Streak Upcoming Arbitrary Grouping
10 12 11 Stanford 18-11 48 16 4-8 3L Utah Safe
11 11 11 Arkansas 21-9 47 79 4-2 6W @Alabama Safe
11 11 11 BYU 20-10 31 23 3-5 4W WCC Tourney Safe
11 11 F4O Nebraska 18-11 41 45 3-7 2W Wisconsin Bubble-IN
12 11 11 Dayton 21-9 45 43 4-5 2W Richmond Bubble-IN
F4O 11 12 Providence 20-10 52 85 2-5 3W @Creighton Bubble-IN
12 F4O 12 Tennessee 18-11 51 15 3-5 3W Missouri Bubble-OUT
F4O F4O F4O Cal 18-12 54 40 4-9 3L Colorado Bubble-OUT
F4O F4O F4O Minnesota 17-12 50 3 3-9 1L Penn State Bubble-OUT
F4O F4O N4O Florida State 18-11 59 61 3-7 3W Syracuse Bubble-OUT
OUT OUT F4O Missouri 21-9 55 93 3-2 2W @Tennessee Bubble-OUT

Teams Currently SAFE

1:30 - Utah

Three straight losses have put the Cardinal much closer to the bubble than they were a week ago.  They have one game against Utah (at home) before the Pac-12 Tournament.  This is a game they should win, but a loss here would be their 4th in a row and things Cardinal fans might be sweating Selection Sunday.

side note: if Utah wins, that would be their 4th in a row (7-2 over last 9) and they might leap up into bubble conversation!

3:00 - @ Alabama

Six straight wins is taking Arkansas the opposite direction of Stanford.  The Razorbacks finish the year at Bama and should have a pretty high seed in the SEC Tournament.  Should they lose this game, get the 5-seed, then lose to the winner of the 12/13 game; then we will be talking about them on Selection Sunday.  1 more win and I think they are a lock.

4:00 (FRIDAY) - Loyola Marymount

The 2-seed in the West Coast Conference.  BYU has 20 wins, a good RPI and a good strength of schedule.  They should be pretty safe even if they get upset by the last place team in the conference.  Should be a lock.

Bubble Teams Currently IN

6:30 (SUNDAY) - Wisconsin

This is what you are supposed to do.  Get your team playing it's best basketball heading into March.  Nebraska is hot going 9-2 over their last 11 games and now might be in position to lock in a 1st round bye in the Big Ten Tournament (even if they lose to Wisconsin on Sunday).  I'm afraid that this team is pretty close to a sure thing unless they lose to the Badgers and follow that up with a loss to anybody in the 1st round of the B1G Tourney.  I don't like it, but they've earned it.

6:00 - Richmond

Go Spiders!  Once considered a bubble team before losing their leading scorer, Richmond now plays the role of helping the Gophers out if they can go on the road and beat Dayton. The Flyers lost to Richmond earlier in the year by 9, but things are a bit different now.  This is another team that is hot, the Flyers have won 8 of 9 including a huge win AT St. Louis on Wednesday to vault them above the cut-line.  A loss here would probably drop them to the 7-seed in the A-10 Tourney.

7:00 - @ Creighton

Finally a game that looks like it might go in favor of Minnesota.  The Friars have won 4 of 5 with the lone loss being in overtime to #9 Villanova.  So they are playing well now too.  A loss here would put probably put them as a 4 or 5 seed in the Big East Tournament where they would get to play St. Johns or Xavier (which ever one is the other 4 or 5 seed).  So back to back losses are a decent possibility here and that would be helpful.

Bubble Teams Currently OUT


Opponent: 3:00 - Missouri (ESPN)

A chance to get a nice win over a bubble team.  A win by Tennessee knocks Missouri out of the discussion, a loss might knock out the Volunteers.  I think we should be rooting for Missouri here.  They'll likely be a 5 or a 6 seed in the SEC Tournament which would pit them against a team in the 11-14 seed range.  That means a very strong possibility of a win before getting to face a top 4 team.  We need Tennessee to lose here cause they have a fairly certain win next week.


Opponent: 5:30 - Colorado

Losing four of five has dropped the Bears considerably.  Now they host the Buffs in a game that might push them out of consideration altogether if they lose it.  Colorado hasn't been playing all that well either of late but they did just win at Stanford and a win for them would secure a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tourney.  This is a pretty key game for Minnesota, as they all are.


Opponent: 4:15 - Penn State (BTN)

Absolute must-win unless the Gophers think they'll win three or four in the B1G Tourney.  Penn State has beaten Ohio State and Northwestern within the span of a week, but again, this is a must-win if the Gophers want to be taken seriously.  This would put us as the 7-seed and might make for a rematch with Penn State to open the B1G Tourney, which would be another must-win.

Florida State

Opponent: 1:00 (SUNDAY) - Syracuse

This is a dangerous game for the Gophers.  I think Florida State is clearly a notch below the Gophers in the bubble pecking order (similar record, weaker RPI, much weaker SOS).  But they get to host Syracuse who is struggling right now.  A win by the Seminoles and they make a big leap here.  Go Orange!

3:00 - @Tennessee (ESPN)

Things are not looking good for the Tigers at the moment but they have a chance to earn a nice road win over another bubble team right before the SEC Tourney.

As I mentioned, this was a tough week for the Gophers with a lot of games going the wrong way to push the Gophers down in the priority seating for an NCAA bid.  While we sat idly by, other teams were winning (the nerve!).  Now I'm not sure what a win over Penn State does for us.  And then it is looking more like we'll get to face Penn State again next week in round 1.

In my opinion the bubble is slightly stronger this year than it has been in year's past.  Cal made the Tournament last year as a 12 seed (ahead of at least a couple teams) with an RPI of 53 and SOS of 43, nearly identical to their resume of 54 and 40 right now and they are likely considered out.  Tennessee and Minnesota both have stronger numbers than those and are also considered out.  Of course, other things are factored in but those are two key metrics.

Minnesota has some work to do and I think we'll need a little help.  But above you can see our rooting interests and where we stand.