Rachel Banham's Gophers are paying the price right now for a cream-puff nonconference schedule and a severely back-loaded Big Ten schedule.
What that means is despite their 18-7 overall record and 10-4 conference mark -- good for third place alone -- they are not even a bubble team yet to get an at-large NCAA bid.
Why? Their RPI is No. 76.
What is RPI?
RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is a measure of strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. It does not consider things like margin of victory, only whether or not a team won and where the game was played. It is used by the NCAA as one of their factors in deciding which teams to invite to the NCAA tournament and where to seed them.
Here is the Gophers problem, they played 11 nonconference games, going 8-3.
They lost to Auburn (No. 49 in RPI), Duke (51) and New Mexico (187).
Their best nonconference win was over Maine (77). Their next best was over Memphis (109) ... and it gets worse from there: North Dakota (128), Stetson (182), Towson (284), Wofford (307), Kent State (317) and NJIT (342).
Thirty-two get into NCAA tournament by winning conference tournaments (some with RPIs over 64), 32 get at-large bids. That's 64 teams.
To be considered, teams who don't win conference titles probably should have RPIs of 50 or under, although that is not the only factor under consideration.
Turning to the Gophers' Big Ten schedule, they have not played the three teams with the best RPIs yet and they play them only once.
Their best win in the conference -- and of the season -- is over Rutgers (41), but they also lost to the Scarlet Knights once.
They also lost once to Purdue (59) and twice to Michigan (65).
They have wins over Indiana (47), Iowa (57), Nebraska (69), two over Northwestern (90), one over Penn St. (130) and two over Illinois (163).
The Gophers will get a chance to improve their RPI with this closing schedule:
at Indiana (47) ... beat 'em by two at the Barn
at Michigan State (32) ... best RPI of any team they have faced -- until final two games
Ohio State (5) ... a possible No. 1 seed, leading Big Ten at 13-1, play Buckeyes at Barn on Senior Night, so it should be emotional and a key game
at Maryland (11) ... on ESPN2, so good showing might impress selection committee
As things stand, Ohio State, Maryland, Michigan State and Rutgers look like locks for NCAA field, with Indiana also probably in ... Iowa and Purdue are on the bubble ... Michigan and Nebraska are on the outside looking in like Minnesota, but the Gophers have the best chance of anyone to move up in the RPI because of its tough closing schedule
One stat a member of the NCAA selection could look at is a team's record against other possible NCAA tournament teams ... The Gophers are 3-1 in that category, not much to look at, beating Maine (which is 12-1 for share of lead in American East, assuming here it wins conference tournament), beating Indiana and splitting two games with Rutgers.
Gophers' next four games are all against NCAA-bound teams, so that number will change. They will get a chance to show they belong in the field.