This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Have the Gophers played their way into the NCAA tournament?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under Gophers game day Updated: March 14, 2010 - 11:47 AM

Indianapolis - NCAA tournament speculation is a 24/7 business.

But on Selection Sunday 2010, a bunch of secluded decisionmakers at a downtown Indianapolis hotel will make the final decision.

The Gophers have certainly made a strong case for inclusion during a magical three-game run to the Big Ten tournament title game, the program's first.

The Gophers have outplayed every team in this tournament. So they may not have to worry about an at-large bid.

Ohio State needed a miracle shot that wouldn't have counted if the clock had started on time (check the tape) and double overtime to reach the title game. It's Evan Turner and the Gang. If his teammates show up, they're as good as any team in the country. If his supporting cast struggles, the Buckeyes will have a tough time pulling out the victory.

The Gophers have relied on depth and a very tough defense. Should be a good game.

But I'm not betting against these Gophers.

Prediction: Gophers 75, Ohio State 73 Overtime

Even if the Gophers lose in the conference tourney title game, they still have a good chance to make the Big Dance.

The Gophers will get in because ...

1. They're 7-2 in their last nine games. Fellow bubble teams Illinois (2-6 in its last eight games) and Louisville (5-4  in its last nine games) didn't finish as strong and some bracketologists have them ahead of the Gophers on the bubble.

2. The freshness factor. I know selection committee members talk like they're stuck in a room perusing resumes with the TV turned off. But they're vulnerable to the ESPN effect, too. A number of bubble teams impressed at various points this season but not recently (Illinois and Florida). The Gophers have been on TV all week, reminding observers, including committee members, of the impressive way they've finished the season. They're the iPad of bubble teams right now.

3. Their resume. They're 5-6 against the RPI's top 50. Three of their last seven wins have come against ranked opponents.

4. The weak bubble. Unlike last year, I think teams will get snubbed because they just haven't done enough during the regular season. Illinois, Florida and Seton Hall have all been in the bubble conversation in recent days, even though their resumes aren't that impressive. The Gophers look like one of the best teams in that field.

5. Losing Nolen. A lot of folks in Indianapolis believe Ohio State deserves a No. 1 seed if it wins the Big Title, even though the Buckeyes have seven losses. Their argument, and it's a good one, is that Ohio State would have been even better if Evan Turner had stayed healthy all year. The selection committee will consider the impact that the loss of the Al Nolen had on the Gophers' season. They had to use a shooting guard at point guard. How many teams have gone through what they've gone through and recovered the way they have?

The Gophers won't get in because ...

1. Their inconsistency. A few weeks ago, Dan Guerrero, the selection committee chair, was asked about the value of conference tournaments. His response: they're about "1 percent" of all games played throughout the year. He emphasized the significance of a team's full body of work. The Gophers have all kinds of negative marks throughout their body of work, despite their success in Indy. Plus, they're 3-7 in true road games.

2. Timing. The Big Ten tourney title game will end about 30 minutes before CBS' Selection Sunday show begins. The timing will make it difficult for the selection committee to consider the value, if any, of a good Gophers' performance in a loss. So either they're in right now or they need the auto-bid, in my opinion. The committee won't have time to evaluate today's matchup.

3. Their bad losses. The Gophers have been impressive lately. But losses to Portland, Indiana and Michigan (twice) won't help their cause. They have four sub-100 losses.

4. The eye test. I think this one could go either way for the Gophers. But selection committee members might look at their latest run as an anomaly. They might think this is a mediocre squad, which its regular-season record supports, that got lucky in the conference tourney. 

5. Someone has to get snubbed. This isn't a great year for bubble teams. And that's the problem. A number of bubble teams appear to be in the same pot. They've impressed in stretches and struggled for a chunk of the year. This is such a subjective process, so a lot of this will come down to intangibles that only selection committee members understand. The parity doesn't help the Gophers.

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