After a 1-0 loss to Wisconsin in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament last Wednesday, the Minnesota Gophers softball team ended their regular season squarely on the NCAA bubble. Minnesota had the #38 RPI in the nation but ended with just a 26-24-1 overall record and a sub-.500 record in the Big Ten. Would that last loss be enough to keep them out of the NCAA tournament for the first time in nine seasons?
The answer would be no. Minnesota earned the benefit of the doubt after playing eighth-most difficult schedule in the country, and the second toughest non-conference schedule in the nation. The Big Ten sent a record seven teams to the NCAA Tournament field of 64, and Minnesota is one of them.
The Gophers are the #3 seed in the Norman region that also features the #1 overall national seeded hosts, Oklahoma Sooners, the #2 seed Texas A&M Aggies, and the #4 seed Prairie View A&M Panthers.
Minnesota appears to have saved their NCAA Tournament fate closing the regular season with a pair of wins over Northwestern at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium Northwestern earned the #9 national seed. Minnesota also has wins over six other teams in the field including Michigan, Arizona State, UCF, Wisconsin, South Dakota State, Illinois, and a tie against Texas. Thus they will play in their 16th ever NCAA Tournament where they hold a 27-31 record.
Minnesota has played one of the three other teams in the regional this season. The Gophers played #1 Oklahoma back in March losing 9-1 on the same field they will play on this weekend.
Minnesota will open play against #2 seed Texas A&M who finished 29-26 with a 6-18 record in SEC play. They finished in 12th place in the 13 team conference where 12 teams made the tournament. The Gophers and Aggies will open regional play at 4PM on Friday in a game that will air live on ESPN2. The Sooners and Panthers will play the late game. The double elimination format will continue on Saturday with the winners of the first two games playing in the early game, with the losers playing in an elimination game next. The winner of that game will once again play an elimination game against the loser of the first game to end the day Saturday, with Sunday being reserved for regional finals. TV for the Saturday games will be announced at a later date.