Charlie Creme has been projecting the NCAA women’s basketball field for ESPN for more than a decade. The “bracketologist” spoke this week on the process and the Gophers’ chances with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q So how exactly do you explain to people what a “bracketologist” does?
A I think the simplest way I’ve come to describe it is that I forecast the tournament how it would look if the season ended today. Most people think I’m predicting who’s going to win the whole thing. I have my opinions on that, but what I do is not really about how things play out. It’s how we get to the tournament.
Q How much has interest changed over the years?
A This is the 11th year, and it’s taken on a lot of different forms. It’s grown because in general the idea of “bracketology” is discussed more and there are more outlets to discuss it with Twitter, more radio and television networks. It’s great conversation.
Q What is a typical day like this time of year?
A The big updates for seeding won’t come until Sunday. It all comes to a head Sunday night, and then there will be tweaks next week as some of the other leagues play.
Q For a team like Minnesota, which is on the bubble, what are the most important factors in figuring out if they’re in or out?
A Well, winning is first. They couldn’t lose to Wisconsin and call themselves worthy of the tournament. They didn’t play much above their level most of the year. They did what they were supposed to do for the most part and didn’t do anything else to say, “Whoa, that’s a special team.” Also, because of where they sit, there’s a scoreboard-watching process to this. What if James Madison loses in the Colonial tournament? That’s an extra bid. Middle Tennessee State, same scenario. … Those would be things Minnesota wouldn’t want to see happen. It really comes down to win as many games as you can and hope.
Q How much did you see Minnesota this year?
A I distinctly remember their game against Miami early in the year [a 74-67 victory], and I was very impressed. From an outsider’s point of view, I was disappointed with how they ended up going through the Big Ten. I thought they were better than that. … They weren’t able to get that one win in the conference [in the regular season] that says “we really have arrived.” Rachel Banham and Amanda Zahui B. ultimately didn’t get enough help.
Q It’s a big week for you and could be a big week for coach Pam Borton. Some have suggested she is on the hot seat. Your thoughts?
A I think it would be good for the program if she was at least given one more year, with Banham and Zahui together with continuity. If the program is going to elevate to another level, next year is going to be the springboard to that. And if you change the regime, it makes it that much harder.