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NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Minnesota is watching seeds not the bubble

Anyone remember the last time we weren’t sweating the Bubble? Me neither.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Minnesota Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

So for the first time in years, Gopher basketball will be able to enjoy Selection Sunday as the day we find out our seed. Typically the Gophers have been a bubble team, sweating out the selection show just hoping to see our name pop up. This year the team is no longer playing to get in, they are playing for better seeding.

So rather than a bubble-watch post where we take a look at all the teams fighting for those precious remaining bids, let us take a look at the teams we are fighting with for a better seed.

Looking at the most recent version of the Bracket Matrix (a site that aggregates dozens of bracket projections in order to get a consensus view of who is in and where they are seeded) the Gophers currently hold a 5-seed. Joe Lunardi’s bracket projection has the Gophers down at a 7-seed.

For the sake of keeping the scope of this seed-watch manageable, I’m going to suggest that best case scenario would see the Gophers moving up to a solid 4-seed. A 3-seed at this point seems like a stretch unless they were to win their next couple games and make a run to the Big Ten Tourney title game. Earning a 3-seed not only requires a bunch of Gopher wins but you also need a team like Duke, Florida State, Purdue Florida or Arizona to stumble. Not unreasonable, considering how the Gophers have been playing of late but I’m going stick with my 4-seed ceiling at this point.

On the flip side, also considering how they’ve been playing lately, I think that falling to a 7-seed is the reasonable floor for where they end up. Is falling to an 8 possible? Yes, it is possible but it would require an 0-3 effort over the next two weeks with another team or two playing well enough to move up a couple spots. Seems less likely.

So that leaves us with a 4 to 7 seed range of possibilities and a couple key questions.

  1. Who do we need to pass to get up to a 4-seed? (covered in this post below)
  2. Who will we potentially be facing in both the first and second round games? (to be covered in another post)

Earning a 4-Seed?

First of all to move up another seed the Gophers are going to have to win at least two, probably three more games. If Selection Sunday were today (even though it’s Monday) I believe that the Gophers are more likely a 6-seed than a 5 and moving up to a 4 is going to require leapfrogging several teams. Who are they?

Teams In the 4-seed Range

  • Duke (FSU and UNC this week)
  • West Virginia (lost to Baylor Monday night)
  • Butler (only Seton Hall this week)
  • Purdue (Ind and NW...I’m rooting for NW)
  • Florida State (plays at Duke Tuesday night)

Teams In the 5/6/7 seed Mix

  • Cincinnati (Houston and UConn)
  • Notre Dame (@Louisville on Saturday)
  • SMU (Tulsa and we are rooting for Memphis on Saturday at SMU)
  • Virginia (beat UNC Monday night so they’ll move up)
  • St. Mary’s (WCC Tourney is up next for the Gaels)
  • Wisconsin (Iowa and Minnesota)
  • Minnesota (2-0 this week would be huge)
  • Creighton (SJU and Marquette, should be a 2-0 week before Big East Tourney)
  • Maryland (Rutgers and the red-hot Spartans)

That is a set of 5 teams that would have to fall out of a 4-seed and a group of about 9 teams that are fighting in that 5/6 seed range (one could include Oklahoma State and Iowa State in this group as well, but I don’t have all day to do this).

That mix of teams all have some interesting games this week which will make for the final seeding push to be rather interesting. That Wisconsin game looms large for the Gopher’s seeding. Ultimately landing as a 6 may not be the worst thing in the world. But that’ll be discussed in the next couple days.

As I see things, we are a likely 6-seed with the opportunity to move up to a 5. Landing a 4 would take a series of events. When compared to the teams around us we have a very strong RPI resume (15th) but when advanced metrics are utilized (KenPom and BPI ranking in the 30-40 range) we would likely fall in the 7-seed range. I think this season is going to see more weight given to those advanced metrics for seeding purposes.

There is still a week of games plus conference tournaments. A lot will happen but these are the likely 15 teams to keep an eye on when it comes to the Gopher’s eventual seeding. The best part is, we are talking about seeing and not at all worried about getting in or not.