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Minnesota Basketball: 2021 NCAA Tournament Bubble the Gophers

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Are the Gophers even on the bubble?

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

It is once again time for the nearly annual look at the NCAA Bubble and where the Gophers sit relative to the rest of the field.

But first, two very important things to always remember when it comes to watching the Bubble. As someone who has scrutinized this Gopher basketball team for over 13-14 years while writing about them, there are two key tenants that one must know.

1 - All teams mentioned at or near the bubble, all have warts. Most fans do not watch the other teams mentioned, and most certainly they do not scrutinize those other teams like you do for your favorite team. So while it is very easy to watch the Gophers look really bad in the first half against Maryland (or any road game where they stink for 1 half) and to determine that this is most certainly NOT an NCAA Tournament team. It is important to remember that most other teams mentioned in this area are similarly troubling and frustrating for their respective fan bases.

2 - The criteria is not your father’s criteria. What you knew 10+ years ago as the requisites to get into the Tournament are not the same as they are today. Winning 20 games or +.500 in your conference are not nearly as important as Quad 1 wins and your NET ranking.

Alright, here we go.

Current Status...

Likely In

The math works out to be that there are 37 total at-large bids available this year. According to BracketMatrix.com, there are 10 teams behind us. Joe Lunardi of ESPN and SBN’s bracket projection each have 7 teams behind the Gophers still.

CBS’s Jerry Palm? He’s much less optimistic and has the Gophers in the dreaded “Last Four In” category.

The Resume

Record: 13-8
NCAA Net Ranking: 53
KenPom Rank: 40
Quad 1 Record: 4-7

Good Wins: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State

Bad Losses: Maryland

The thing with the Gophers is that they have some fantastic wins. Their 4-7 record against Quad 1 teams is pretty good, but what stands out is that three of those wins are against top 10 teams. Purdue being their 4th, with the possibility of St. Louis moving up as a quad 1 win (They are currently NET 33 and would need to get to 30th).

The other side of the coin is that they have zero road wins with most of them being utterly uncompetitive.

Prediction

I think this team gets in. Their magic number is really 3 wins. TeamRankings.com has a unique little feature that gives the team’s % chance of getting in with each additional win they can earn.

Getting 16 wins would give the Gophers an 85% chance of making it. Getting only to 15 wins (2 more) would give them about a 14.4% chance of making it.

But once again, how everyone else does matters. If the 7 teams behind us all finish the season unusually strong, then even three wins might still have us nervous. That’s unlikely to happen though, and really 2 wins might be enough. But getting a road win, would be HUGE for this team. Beating Indiana this week would go a long way towards being safely above the bubble fray.

The Bubble

Here we go, time to really start paying attention to other teams.

— Likely In —

  • Oregon (46) - Quad 1 opportunity with Colorado at home on Thursday to solidify position.
  • Seton Hall (45) - 3 consecutive wins and 2 very winable games this week to move up.
  • VCU (32) - 3 games in the next 7 days, 2 of them against Bubble teams (St. Louis/Richmond).
  • Minnesota (53) - Game at Indiana on Wednesday is huge for both teams. A road win against a good team would see Minnesota’s NET take a significant jump.
  • Indiana (50) - The Hoosiers have swept Iowa, but the rest of their resume needs some help. Minnesota and Michigan State at home this will are good opportunities.

— Likely Dayton Hinkle Bound —

  • Colorado State (44) - Should easily go 2-0 to finish the regular season and then see what happens in MWC tourney.
  • North Carolina (57) - How the Tarheels finish will be very interesting. They could easily go 2-4, they might need to go 4-2.
  • UConn (59) - Villanova on Saturday is a big opportunity for the Huskies.
  • Utah State (51) - Huge back-to-back at Boise this week.

— Better Start Winning —

  • Drake (35) - 18-0 and then 2-2 with one bad loss.
  • Boise State (38) - See comment above next to Utah State. If either team gets a sweep, they are in much better shape.
  • Stanford (56) - This weekend are the Washington schools for The Cardinal. These are important but not resume building.

— Outside Looking In —

  • Saint Louis (33) - Might have to go 5-0, maybe 4-1 with a win over VCU.
  • Maryland (36) - Fuck Maryland.
  • Richmond (54) - Six games remaining, 3 of them against VCU/St. Louis.

Gopher Fan Rooting Interests

I’ll add this when we can have a more narrowed focus on which teams matter most.