Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
Blake Hoffarber was only a sophomore in 2005, playing for his uncle Ken Novak, Jr., at Hopkins.
The Royals were in the Class 4A title game against a talented Eastview team, and trailed 58-56 with 2.5 seconds left in the second overtime. It looked bleak. A long in-bounds throw from one end of the court to the other had Hopkins and Eastview players battling for position.
Hoffarber fell to the floor, but somehow the ball wound up in his hands and, with his butt on the court near the three-point line, he heaved the ball up. Swish.
The officials conferred: Was it a two, a three? Did Hoffarber get the shot off in time? Did he travel?
And the rest ... well you probably know. Hopkins won the game in two overtimes, 71-60. The Lightning was obviously deflated and didn't mount much of a fight in the second extra period. Hoffarber won an ESPY the following summer for Best Play of the Year.
So Amir Coffey's long three-pointer -- TV sportscaster Chris Long said on Twitter that he measured it at 57 feet -- was a great play and finish. It gave the Royals a 49-46 win over Shakopee in the state semifinals.
Coffey is a sophomore, too. Like Hoffarber was.
But Hoffarber's shot was more remarkable. You don't practice that shot.
Later, he made it again for KARE-TV. It took him 19 or 24 tries, depending who's telling the story. He also made it on national TV on "The Today Show" on his fifth try.
Royals fans still remember Hoffarber's shot and now have another great one to savor.
Too bad much of the end of the game was a snoozefest because the Sabers stayed in their zone and the Royals just held onto the ball. Maybe this will cause the Minnesota State High School League to look at a shot clock.
There is one other great shot I vividly remember in the years I covered high school sports. It came in the 1996 state quarterfinals.
Minneapolis North, with Khalid El-Amin, was trailing St. Thomas Academy 65-64 with seconds left. El-Amin got the ball in transition and launched a 23-foot jumper. Much, much shorter than Coffey's shot.
But it went in. It was his ninth three-pointer and gave him 41 points.
He was so excited he jumped onto the courtside table used by broadcasters and the stats crew. And then he jumped down on the other side. Maybe he was trying to reach North fans in the stands quicker. I'm not sure.
What makes the story better, though, is all his teammates followed him. All jumped on the table and off the other side.
He was a leader and everyone followed him. No matter where he led. Sure stunned some media members, I bet. I wasn't close to the "route" El-Amin took to the stands.
Hard to forget that game.
There are 64 spots in the NCAA women's basketball tournament. Thirty-two are filled by automatic qualifiers, 32 by at-large picks. The Gophers, obviously, hope to get one of the latter.
As for the automatic bids, 25 have been decided. Seven will be in the next few days. Conference USA still has its quarterfinals to be played.
The Atlantic Sun, Mid-Eastern, Mountain West, SWAC and WAC has semifinals on its docket and the Northeast has just the championship game.
Here is a list of teams, in alphabetical order, who have earned spots in the NCAA women's basketball tournamen by winning their conference tournaments or, in Penn's case, its regular-season conference title ... or in the case of seven conferences still playing, the favorite is listed:
Albany (N.Y.), America East, 28-4, 15-1
Army, Patriot, 24-7, 14-4, tied for second behind Navy
Baylor, Big 12 Conference, 29-4, 16-2, tied for first with West Virginia
Bowling Green, Mid American, 27-3, 17-1
Cal State-Northridge, Big West, 16-14, 12-4
Chattanooga, Southern Conference, 29-3, 18-0
Colorado State, Moutain West, 24-6, 15-3, in conference semis Fri.
DePaul, Big East Conference, 27-6, 15-3
Florida Gulf Coast, Atlantic Sun, 24-7, 17-1, in conference semis Sat.
Fordham, Atlantic 10 Conference, 25-7, 11-5, second to Dayton
Gonzaga, West Coast Conference, 29-4, 16-2
Hampton, Mid-Eastern Athleric Conference, 26-4, 16-0, in conference semis Fri.
Idaho, WAC, 23-8, 15-1, in conference semis Fri.
Indiana State, Missouri Valley, 19-10, 14-4, tied for first with Wichita State
James Madison, Colonial Athletic Association, 25-5, 15-1
Marist, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 27-6, 18-2, tied for first with Iona
Middle Tennessee, Conference USA, 27-4, 15-1, in tournament semifinals Fri. vs. Fla. Intl
Nebraska, Big Ten Conference, 25-6, 12-4, third behind co-champs Penn State and Michigan State
North Dakota, Big Sky, 20-9, 19-5, tied with Southern Utah for first
Notre Dame, Atlantic Coast Conference, 32-0, 16-0
Pennsylvania, Ivy League, 22-6, 12-2, regular season champions, no tournament in Ivy
Robert Morris, Northeast, 20-11, 14-4, in conference final vs. St. Francis on Sat.
South Dakota, Summit League, 19-13, 7-7, fourth in conference
Southern Cal, Pacific-12 Conference, 22-12, 11-7, tied for fourth
Stephen F. Austin, Southland, 19-11, 13-5, tied for first with Lamar
Tennessee, Southeastern Conference, 27-5, 13-3, tied for second behind South Carolina
Texas Southern, SWAC, 19-11, 15-3, second behind Southern University, in conference semifinals Fri.
UConn, American Athletic Conference, 34-0, 18-0
UT-Martin, Ohio Valley Conference, 24-7, 15-1
Winthrop, Big South Conference, 24-8, 15-5, second behind High Point
WIsconsin-Green Bay, Horizon Conference, 21-8, 13-3
After the Gophers women's basketball team beat Indiana, coach Pam Borton said, "if we can go .500 in the Big Ten, then we're in great shape for the NCAA Tournament."
Well, her Gophers did win their next game, versus Ohio State, to get to 8-8 but ... the Gophers are not in great shape at all.
I have to make a confession -- it's good for the soul, right? -- I am a bracketology expert.
At least, as college hockey goes. All the tournament winners get into the NCAA field and then you just look at the PairWise rankings -- which some hockey/numbers cruncher genius devised -- and count down from the top, excluding tournament champs, until you get to 16.
That's the NCAA tournament field. Easy. 100 percent accurate. Don't need s selection committee except to decide what regions to send team.
In women's basketball, bracketology is a little more complicated. But I'm going to give it a shot with the help of the Internet. There's a lot of stuff on it, a wise sports columnist once said
And I found the S-factor by accident the other day, so I am well-armed. All I'm really trying to figure out is if the Gophers are in.
It (the S Factor) can be found here.
What does it try to do?
The College Women's Hoops S-Factor is a formula that attempts to mimic the choices made by the Selection Committee for the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Tournament every March.
The S-Factor uses the following data to rank each team:
- conference regular season performance
- conference tournament performance
- wins against good and great teams
- losses against bad and terrible teams
- strength of conference
- overall record against all teams
Is it accurate? In 2013, the S-Factor correctly predicted 62 out of the 64 teams.
That's pretty darn good.
And as of today, the S-factor has the Gophers in, hanging by a thread as an 11th seed.
An 11th seed, but isn't that pretty good? Nope.
Here's why. Of the 24 teams seeded 11 through 16 a years ago, 22 were tournament champions who received automatic bids. Only Kansas (18-13), 7th in the Big 12 and West Virginia (17-13), tied for 5th in the Big East 12 got seeded that low as at-large teams. Kansas was a 12th seed, West Virigina an 11th seed. So they were the last two at-large teams in. ... That's about the spot the Gophers are in.
The Gophers, 19-11, 8-8 tied for sixth in the Big Ten.
The Big Ten had six teams in the Big Dance a year ago, all of them won 20 games in the regular season. Penn St. was a third seed, Big Ten tournament champion Purdue was a fourth seed, Michigan State a fifth, Nebraska a sixth and Iowa (21-13, 8-8) a ninth. Nobody was on the bubble.
That's not the case in 2014. Five Big Ten teams all have 20 wins and winning conference marks of at least 11-5. They are all in, easily.
The Gophers are only 8-8 in the conference. Only four teams with .500 conference marks made the 2013 tournament and only one, 8-10 Kansas, with an under .500 conference mark.
Another problem for the Gophers is their resume. Frankly, it's not very impressive.
They were 0-7 versus the five NCAA tournament teams in the Big Ten, and 8-1 against Michigan (the other 8-8 team in the conference) and the five teams below them in the standings.
Looking at their nonconference record of 13-3, the Gophers didn't play a single team that is assured of being in the NCAA field.
Their best win was over Southern Conference regular-season champion Chattanooga (26-3, No. 44 RPI). They also beat Patriot champion Navy (23-6, No. 56), Mountain West champion Colorado St. (22-6, No. 87) and Big Sky champion North Dakota (20-8, No. 93).
But all those teams will have to win their conference tournaments to get automatic bids. No real big win anywhere. The Gophers' other nine nonconference wins came against four teams who were between one and five games over .500 and three teams below .500.
Of the 32 conferences who receive automatic bids, 23 only had one NCAA team last season. Won't be much different this year.
So the conferences to watch for the Gophers are the ACC, with five NCAA teams last year, the Big 12 (7), the Big East (8), the Pac 12 (4) and the SEC (7).
This year, the S-factor has the ACC with seven, the Big 12 with five, the reconfigured Big East with two, the Pac 12 with four and the SEC with seven. ... If one or two unexpected teams make a strong run in the conference tournaments, the bubble could burst for teams barely in the tournament now.
The S-factor has the Gophers, Central Michigan and Fordham as the three newest teams in.
ESPN has the Gophers, Florida, Florida St. and Oregon St. on the bubble as the last four in.
Collegesportsmadness.com has the Gophers out.
RealTimeRPI.com has the Gophers' RPI at No. 38 (RPI is is a quantity used to rank sports teams based upon a team's wins and losses and its strength of schedule) and strength of schedule at No. 19.
That's all good, but a win against lowly Wisconsin in the Gophers' first Big Ten tournament game -- which would be the Gophers' third win over the Badgers this season -- won't help the U much in resume-building.
How about the Gophers getting to 20th wins if they beat the Badgers? Doesn't mean all that much. The Pac-12 and SEC, two major conferences, both had two 20-win teams last season left out of the Big Dance.
To ensure getting into the NCAA, the Gophers better beat Wisconsin and third seed Nebraska in the quarterfinals. A win over the Cornhuskers would be Minnesota's first this season over a team that would get an at-large bid even if it doesn't win its conference tournament.
That's what is called a quality win.
And they are certainly capable of it. The Gophers lost in Lincoln in overtime this season the only time they played Nebraska.
Arizona State coach Craig Nicholson was getting some tough questions after the No. 3-rated Sun Devils lost two games on Sunday, the first to the Gophers 3-2.
"We are not putting all three parts of the game together," said Nicholson, the first-year ASU coach whose team lost to Ball State 3-0 later on Sunday. That's his former team. "We didn't hit like we normally hit. You can't take anybody for granted."
Certainly not the Gophers, even though they come from the land of ice and cold. The No. 19 Gophers, with ace Sara Moulton on the mound, rallied to beat the Sun Devils with three runs in the sixth inning off ASU's ace.
That makes Jessica Allister's club 15-2, which is the best start in program history and the best record of any team in the Big Ten. One loss was to No. 1 Florida in a rout, the other was to Florida International 3-1 on Sunday in the U's first game.
But the Gophers bounced back from that second loss quickly. Facing All-America pitcher Dallas Escobedo -- 30-6 last season with a 2.32 ERA -- they tied the score 1-1 in the sixth on Kaitlyn Richardson's run-scoring double. Then multi-talented freshman Sara Groenewegen, hitting cleanup, drilled a two-run single for a 3-1 lead.
And against ASU -- a team which has played in six of the past eight College World Series, more than any other program in that stretch, including a trip last year, all three parts of the Gophers' game was clicking.
Moulton improved to 10-1 in the circle. She pitched a four-hitter, struck out eight and got out of a huge jam in the bottom of the sixth. ASU had closed to within 3-2 and had runners on third and second with nobody out.
But on a ball hit to Moulton, she started a double play as the runner from third tried to come home. The ball went to the catcher, then to third for a tag and one out. Then Richardson threw to second base and caught the runner there.
The Gophers, at the plate, got seven hits, including four they bunched together in the sixth.
This is a team that wants to be where the Sun Devils are at. And Sunday's win over ASU was a big step in that direction.
Illinois and Nebraska finished 1-2 in the Big Ten women's indoor track and field meet a year ago, separated by three points, 115 to 112. It was the closest battle for the indoor title since 2002.
The Gophers were a distant seventh with 56 points.
The Maroon and Gold isn't considered a title treat this year either but could win several individual titles and maybe a relay or two.
Last year Illinois took first in five events and second in two others. Penn State and Purdue are the only Big Ten teams in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches national team computer ratings. The Nittany Lions are No. 11, the Boilermakers No. 17.
Alena Brooks of the Gophers has the top seed times in the 600- and 800-meter runs, 1:28.57 and 2:04.90. ... She was fifth in the 600 last year.
Molly Kayfes is the second seed in the 5,000 (16:19.12), Liz Berkholz the fourth (16:31.86) and Laura Docherty the seventh. ... Docherty and Kayfes took second and third in the 5,000 last year, respectively.
Jess Heraut has the third best total in the indoor pentathlon (4,008), Megan Geyen is the fifth seed in the 400 (54.41) and Katie Murgic is the sixth seed in the pole vault (13-2 1/4).
The Gophers' distance medley is seeded second, the 4x400 relay third. The 4x400 took fourth a year ago -- 22 hundreths of a second off the school record -- and three of those runners are members of the relay again: Geyen, Te 'Shon Adderly and Brooks. The new member is Titania Markland. They set a new school record this year of 3:38.10 in the Bill Bergen Invitational in Ames, Iowa.
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