A certain number of things need to go right for the Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend if they're going to make the NCAA Tournament field. While virtually every game played in every conference tournament will affect the outcome. We're going to focus on the Big Ten Tournament and how each game will affect the Gophers RPI, which is one of the factors in the Pairwise Power Rankings. Andy already did a great job covering the big picture and other conferences.
There are eight scenarios for the Gophers to exit the Big Ten tournament. Three of them would involve winning the tournament, three involve losing the final, and two involve losing in the semifinal. Each one of those scenarios will affect Minnesota’s RPI, and therefore their likelihood of making the NCAA Tournament. Here they are in order of yuck to yay:
- Minnesota loses in the semi-final to either Penn State or Ohio State (scenarios 1 and 2). These two scenarios are equally yucky. The Gophers RPI would fall from .5444 to .5397, and as Andy pointed out, this would make for a tense Saturday.
- Minnesota beats the football helmet schools (RPI up to .5472) and loses to Wisconsin (scenario 3). The Gophers RPI falls to .5412. Not quite as bad as losing in the semis, but losing to Wisconsin this weekend would be almost as disastrous.
- Minnesota beats the football helmet schools (RPI up to .5472) and loses to Michigan State (scenario 4). The Gophers RPI falls to .5421.
- Minnesota beats the football helmet schools (RPI up to .5472) and loses to the other football helmet school, Michigan (scenario 5). The Gophers RPI falls to .5432.
- Minnesota beats the football helmet schools (RPI up to .5472) and beats Wisconsin the final (scenario 6). Not only does this guarantee an NCAA Tournament berth, but it bumps RPI up to .5485, important for seeding purposes.
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Number Muncher: Michigan vs. Wisconsin
Round two of our Big Ten predictions takes a look at a team with a good offense and a terrible defense and another team with terrible everything.
- Minnesota beats the football helmet schools (RPI up to .5472) and beats MSU in the final (scenario 7). Not only does this guarantee an NCAA Tournament berth, but it bumps RPI up to .5494, important for seeding purposes.
- Minnesota beats the football helmet schools (RPI up to .5472) and beats the other football helmet school, Michigan, in the final (scenario 8). Not only does this guarantee an NCAA Tournament berth, but it bumps RPI up to .5502, important for seeding purposes.
To summarize, here’s your rooting strategy for each game in the tournament.
Game 1: Root for beer. The winner of PSU and OSU is basically irrelevant. Personally, I think the Gophers match up better against PSU because OSU has two players who can skate really fast. Again, who wins is irrelevant. The Gophers must win the next day. Make sure you have a large volume of your favorite beverage handy to make this game bearable.
Game 2: The ultimate spoiler team in this tournament is Wisconsin. They can literally screw up the NCAA Tournament picture for every other Big Ten team. Minnesota is the only team with a reasonable chance at an at-large bid, so the Gophers have the most to lose. As much as it kills me, we want Michigan to win this game (and it hurts me, physically, to say that). A Michigan win will remove a nightmare scenario from the realm of possibility.
Game 3: Obvious. Go Gophers. It doesn’t matter who won Game 1. Minnesota needs to win this game.
Game 4: This one is dependent on Game 2. If Wisconsin plays in Game 4, we want MSU to win and advance to the final. They offer a better RPI ceiling (.5494) and floor (.5421) than Wisconsin (.5485 and .5412), depending on the outcome of the Final.
If Michigan plays in Game 4, we want them to win. They offer the best RPI ceiling (.5502) and floor (.5432) of the three possible opponents
Game 5 (Final): The best case scenario is a Gopher victory for the auto-berth and RPI implications no matter the opponent.
If the Gophers lose in the Semis, the result of the Final will basically be irrelevant. No Big Ten team can surpass the Gophers in the Pairwise Power Rankings. However, the tournament winner will be taking the Big Ten's auto-berth, limiting the number of at-large bids available for Minnesota to occupy. A couple of additional upsets in other conference tournaments could spell disaster.
Keep in mind that every other game played in every other tournament will affect the RPI and Pairwise outcomes. The scenarios above are insulated from those outside results.