The season is REALLY early. But the Gophers have gone from being an 8-win team for the entire 2015-16 season to being an 8-win team in the first two months of the 2016-17 season. What does that all mean? Not much, but their early season success has them in the discussion of being an NCAA Tournament team this year.
Joe Lunardi has the Gophers safely in the Tourney as an 11-seed in his most recent Bracketology.
Considering just how far away from the NCAA Tournament the Gophers were last season, just being in the discussion is an impressive feat. Do they really belong? Will they actually earn it? Too early to tell, but they’ve done what they need to do to be in the conversation.
The Big Ten season is looming and that is where they will earn their way in or not. But four games remain before Michigan State comes to town to open the conference season. Four games that should very much be winable as none of them are ranked higher than 162nd according to KenPom ranks. Those four wins puts the Gophers with a 12-1 record heading into B1G games.
At that point, KenPom currently has the Gophers favored to win 9 conference games. A 9-11 Big Ten season with 21 wins would almost certainly put the Gophers in and likely not sweating on Selection Sunday. Those 9 wins have yet to be earned and they’ll be tested greatly with this conference schedule.
I was on record saying that the NCAA Tournament is probably unrealistic. I believed that going from 2 conference wins to the 8 or 9 required to make the NCAA Tournament seemed unreasonable. But Richard Pitino has this team playing significantly better than expected and I will be thrilled to be proven wrong. It is awfully early but it’s fun. Enjoying the season and enjoying Gopher basketball again.