Our guy Joe Christensen, part of the Gophers coverage team now at the Star Tribune, hopped on a conference call this morning with NCAA men's basketball selection committee chair Mike Bobinski (also the AD at Xavier). This time of year, Bobinski is one of the more popular guys around -- as he and his fellow committee members hold the fate of plenty of teams in their hands when it comes to the Big Dance.
Joe was good enough to send us the most pertinent quotes from Bobinski when it comes to the Gophers. Some people have suggested Minnesota is a bubble team and perhaps needs to win a game at the Big Ten tourney to secure a bid. We have come around to the theory that such a thought is nonsense. Their RPI (24) is just too good to fail. In the modern era of the RPI, no Big Six conference team with an RPI better than 40 has missed the tourney. Even if the Gophers lose to Illinois on Thursday in the Big Ten tourney, their RPI will barely be dented. The two most respected "bracketologists" both have the Gophers as a No. 9 seed right now.
We're not saying they absolutely DESERVE to get in based on how they have played lately. But that 15-1 start, combined with some other quality wins in a very tough conference (Wisconsin, Indiana) along the way have basically made the Gophers bullet-proof.
The comments from Bobinski seem to add another check mark in the "good news" ledger for the Gophers when it comes to getting a bid. Here are the most pertinent things he had to say:
Bobinski on the weight of good wins vs. bad losses: Quantifying it is really hard to do. We don’t have a selection formula. We don’t have any set criteria that we offer to the committee members. Everybody gets to make those determinations on their own. As I sit here, and this is just me as a single committee member with no more voting weight than anybody else, I would tell you that the ability to beat good teams is really, probably a clear indication of your deservedness to be in the tournament. If you can beat teams that are generally accepted and evaluated to be amongst the best in the country, that says something about who you are. Losing to good teams or losing to bad teams is part of it, but I think for me, one of the real hallmarks is have you shown that you can play and play successfully at a high level, so I think that to me weighs a little bit heavier than the loss side of it.
Our take: The Gophers have a bevy of good wins (Memphis, Indiana and Michigan State being the best) and 11 overall against RPI top 83 teams and three more against teams just outside the top 100. Those wins, at least in the mind of the committee chair, will carry more weight than, say, losses to Northwestern and Purdue.
Bobinski on teams passing the "eye test" or who have lost by a lot of points in games: We look beyond the pure results and pure numbers. How has that team looked over an extended amount of time. Even among the teams that are generally considered to be among the top teams in the country, if you look at their individual results, there are going to be a couple in there for darn near every team where you say how the heck did that happen. So I don’t know that any particular loss or any significant game would really significantly damage or advantage any team’s position in the field or where they’re seeded. One game is ultimately one game and we need to keep it in perspective.
Our take: Again, good news for the Gophers. While plenty of us have shaken our heads at the Gophers' up-and-down play, this is a sign, again, that a couple of bad losses won't hurt Minnesota significantly in the eyes of the committee.
Bobinski on the importance of final 10 games, which he said used to be part of the official criteria but is no longer:
We took it off because ... what had happened is folks in the media and elsewhere were really fixating on that as an overly weighted determinant and sort of misled people for how we view that. Again, it’s a very individual thing. Is how you finish important? Of course it is, but it’s different in an individual way. And it’s also different because of unbalanced schedules and who you play in those last games makes a big difference. ... The end of the season, that has something to say about how a team’s performing, but again, it’s not a stand-alone evaluation in and of itself which will make a decision for any of us.
Our take: Good for the Gophers, who are 4-6 in their last 10 games (and would be 3-7 if they lose to Illinois tomorrow because their win over Iowa is no longer part of the last 10).
Bobinski on the RPI: It’s purely an individual decision here in the room. I would tell you, if you went around and asked the 10 different committee members, I think everybody would give you a different opinion as to how they individually consider those different rating systems and factors. The true fact and the reality is that the RPI is sort of the organizational basis for the information that’s presented to us. So it is a way that we evaluate, for instance, strength of schedules, whether it be non-conference or overall. Or top 50 wins, top 100 wins, are all RPI based, but the RPI in and of itself is never used as a selection tool, it’s not a stand-alone criteria for selection seeding or anything.
Our take: On its face, it might not sound good since the RPI doesn't guarantee anything (or so Bobinski is saying). But the things he rattled off within it -- strength of schedule (Gophers are No. 2 in the country), top 50 wins (Gophers have five) and top 100 wins (Gophers have 11) -- are all things that are pluses for Minnesota.
None of this should be a tremendous surprise since the committee has generally made picks based on these things in the past. But it does reinforce the notion that the Gophers are almost certainly going to make the NCAA tournament no matter what happens tomorrow. Of course, they could eliminate all doubt with a strong showing at the Big Ten tournament, rendering all of this meaningless.
If we had to guess right now: The Gophers will be a 10 seed (maybe an 11, but certainly not in the play-in game or really all that close to the bubble) if they lose to Illinois. If they beat Illinois but lose to Indiana, they will be an 8-seed. If they beat Illinois and Indiana, they will be a 7-seed. If they make it to the conference title game, they will be a 6 or 7. If they win the Big Ten tournament, they will be a 6.