Even though the Gophers want to finish out the season strong, they are “probably OK” to slide into the NCAA tournament, even if they were to crash and burn, CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm said.
Minnesota still has at least three games on the docket, with today’s game at Nebraska, a trip to Purdue closing up the regular-season schedule and then a first-round matchup (likely against Nebraska or Northwestern) in the Big Ten tournament. Losing any of those would constitute a “bad” loss because all of those teams are below 100 in the RPI.
The Gophers currently have just one such loss – at Northwestern on Jan. 23. In the unlikely scenario of them losing out, they could end up with four – a pretty drastic difference.
But the NCAA selection committee values good wins over bad losses – and of good wins the Gophers have plenty.
- The Gophers have 12 wins against the RPI top-100
- They have five wins against ranked teams, tied for second-most in the country (Memphis, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin Indiana)
- They now have a victory over then-No. 1 Indiana, a team that is No. 9 in the RPI.
Previous to the Indiana win, a loss against Nebraska or Northwestern going forward would have hurt them to the extent that it would have put them on the bubble. But the victory over the Hoosiers was strong enough that it gives the Gophers wiggle room.
The Gophers are sitting pretty at No. 17 in the RPI based on the above wins, the lack of bad losses and the No. 2 strength of schedule in the country. Three more bad losses would force a fall in the RPI rankings, but most likely not to the extent that they’d be excluded. Some of the teams at the bottom of the bracket have very little to show in their resumes, and by comparison, the Gophers have already done a lot.
Of course, that the Gophers are comfortable getting into the tournament from here has nothing to do with how an 0-3 finishing stretch against light competition would be viewed: as a collapse.
Other quick notes:
- Last night’s Ohio State win over Indiana (what a league this is) doesn’t really affect the Gophers directly, but Iowa’s win over Illinois is very pertinent. Before last night, the Gophers were tied with the Illini at 8-8. Were they to finish in a tie with Illinois, the Illini would get the higher seed in the conference tournament based on their 1-0 record against the conference leader, Indiana (assuming the Hoosiers stay at that spot). The loss puts the ball in the Gophers’ court to win out and gain the 6-seed.
- If the Gophers did get the 6-seed, they would play either Nebraska or Northwestern (the 11-seed) in the first round (obviously they would want Nebraska to avoid matching up against Northwestern's zone again) and then face the No. 3-seed if they advanced to the second round.
- Currently, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin are all tied for the third spot, with Ohio State a tick ahead. Thursday’s game featuring Michigan State and Wisconsin will determine who would get the nod if, say, all of those teams tie, because based on head-to-head records, it would have to be one of those two teams.
- Wisconsin would probably be the most favorable second-day matchup in the Big Ten tournament for the Gophers, considering the options. The problem would be if all four teams tied for second, and Wisconsin got the nod there. In that case, the Gophers would get Ohio State.