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.
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.
Looking for reasons the Gophers fell short this season?
I got a theory. Somebody blundered putting this roster together.
That's the only way to explain the Gophers playing 10 forwards and eight defenseman against Yale.
D-man Jake Parenteau and Justin Holl were the left and right wings on the Gophers' fourth line. That line had two shots on goal in the U's 3-2 overtime loss to Yale.
On a roster with 15 NHL draft picks, the coaches couldn't find 12 forwards to play.
Associate head coach Mike Guentzel was on the radio Saturday morning saying the Gophers were still trying to put lines together at the end of the season.
Four forwards on the Gophers roster barely saw the ice, if at all.
Freshman Connor Reilly was the big story. He came to the U after a great season at Penticton in the British Columbia Hockey League. Guentzel said he would have been a top nine forward. My guess, top six.
At any rate, he suffered an ACL knee injury at a team party before the season began. It turned out to be a humongous loss.
Because once the Gophers coaches saw what else they had at forward, they must have decided not much.
Ryan Reilly, Connor's twin brother, played eight games, Jared Larson four, Christian Horn none.
In effect, the Gophers' 27-man roster was really 20.
The Gophers had four forwards who didn't play and three goalies who didn't play: Mike Shibrowski and two practice goalies.
On that 20 man roster were goalie Adam Wilcox, 11 forwards and eight defensemen. That's it. Not much room to maneuver. Not much competition for playing spots. Nineteen of those players played almost every game. One sat.
Fortunately, this team avoided any major injuries, except fo Connor Reilly's.
That one hurt enough.
* Connor Reilly has been skating for a couple weeks now. He joins his teammates for part of practice, but is not having contact yet.
Yale has played three WCHA teams this season. Each game went into overtime. And the Elis won each game.
Yup, Yale plays to win in overtime, not to tie like some teams do.
Coach Keith Allain's team now has won five games in OT and lost, uh, none. It has xx ties.
Here are Yale's other overtime wins:
Nov. 23, 2012 -- beat Denver 2-1 on road. Kenny Agostino scored at 1:32 on a power play, with assists from Jesse Root and Antoine Laganiere.
Nov. 24, 2012 -- beat Colorado College 6-5 on road. Josh Balch scored at 1:39 with assists from Stu Wilson and Ryan Obuchowski.
Jan. 25, 2013 -- beat Cornell 3-2 on road. Wilson scored at 2:28, with assists from Obuchowski and Balch.
March 3, 2013 -- beat Colgate 4-3. Balch scored unassisted at 4:57, with three seconds left in the extra period. OTs in regular season are only five minutes.
March 29, 2013 -- beat Gophers 3-2. Jesse Root scored at nine seconds, before anyone was ready. Media members didn't see it apparently, Don Lucia didn't see it, he said, nor did his goalie.
How unfair of Yale to start playing in overtime before the Gophers were ready.
Yale is now 5-0-3 in overtime games. The Gophers? Their record is 1-1-5.
The Gophers got the puck in Yale's zone at the start of the game and kept it there for the first 30 seconds or so. ... But then Kyle Rau and Seth Helgeson were soon in the penalty box for committing unnecessary penalties, and the Elis were settling in. Getting power play chances.
Yale had six shots in the first seven minutes.
Rau had a chance at the side of the net. And Nick Bjugstad had a good chance from the side late in the opening period that hit the far post. The puck gods were not going to be with the Gophers this game.
"You have to get your nose bloody a couple of times to see how you respond. I think we saw a pretty good response," said Keith Allain, whose team squandered a 2-0 lead in the third period but won anyway.
First-day results: Hockey East 2-0, ECAC 1-0, WCHA 1-3, Atlantic Hockey 0-1.
PRO DRAFT PICKS
Of the Gophers 27 players, 15 have been taken in the NHL draft:
1. Jr. D Mark Alt, 2nd rd. in 2010 by Carolina
2. So. F Seth Ambroz, 5th rd. in 2011 by Columbus
3. Jr. F Nick Bjugstad, 1st rd. in 2010 by Florida
4. So. F Travis Boyd, 6th rd. in 2011 by Washington
5. Jr. F Zach Budish, 2nd rd. in 2009 by Nashville
6. Jr. F Nate Condon, 7th rd. in 2008 by Colorado
7. Jr. F Erik Haula, 7th rd. in 2009 by Wild
8. Sr. D Seth Helgeson, 4th rd. in 2009 by New Jersey
9. Jr. D Justin Holl, 2nd rd. in 2010 by Chicago
10. So. F Christian Isackson, 7th rd. in 2010 by Buffalo
11. So. D Ben Marshall, 7th rd. in 2010 by Detroit
12. So. F Kyle Rau, 3rd rd in 2011 by Florida
13. Fr. D Mike Reilly, 4th rd. in 2011 by Columbus
13. Fr. D Brady Skjei, 1st rd in 2012 by NY Rangers
14. Fr. G Adam Wilcox, 6th rd. in 2011 by Tampa Bay
Breakdown by rounds: 1st -- 2, 2nd -- 3, 3rd -- 1, 4th -- 1, 5th -- 1, 6th -- 2, 7th -- 4.
THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES GOPHERS
These players were on the Gophers 27-man roster this season but rarely if ever played, so the U played with a 20-man roster basically:
Ryan Coyne, freshman backup practice goalie
Christian Horn, freshman forward
Matt LaPrade, freshman goalies ... heard he had a medical issue
Jared Larson, sophomore forward ... played four games
Connor Reilly, freshman forward ... ACL surgery on knee
Ryan Reilly, freshman forward ... played eight games
Mike Shibrowski, junior goalie ... played three games
With ticket sales for the West Regional being a little sluggish, the organizing committee for the West Regional decided on Friday to start selling single-session tickets on Friday. Seats available are at the club level in the end zones. The price is $57 for both games on Saturday or for championship game on Sunday.
Here are the full details on the University of Minnesota web site.
Two-day ticket packages remain available, too, at $94.
UND JERSEYS UNVEILED
The North Dakota hockey team wanted to keep what its new jerseys would look like a secret until the players came on the ice on Saturday for their 12:30 p.m. game against Western Michigan.
But that plan went kaput once the first media member got a hold of the NCAA tournament program. It has a team photo of the team in its new jerseys. The story in the Grand Forks Herald is here.
The jerseys have an old school look. On the front of the jersey is each player's number in the middle, with the word North on top of the number and the word Dakota below it. The jersey is mostly white with green shoulders.
The NCAA told UND it could not use its nickname or American Indian-related logos in the national tournament.
EX-GOPHER TURNS PRO
Bemidji State forward Drew Fisher of International Falls has signed with the Tulsa Oilers of the CHL. He had three goals and one assist in 38 games with the Beavers this season. Fisher played for the Gophers for two seasons before he transferred to BSU.
UMD coach Scott Sandelin on 100.3-FM this morning:
* "The first two series this season we were 1-3 and people were wondering what was going on." The Bulldogs split with Notre Dame and were swept by the Gophers in their first four games.
* On two-OT loss to Denver in the Final Five semifinals: "We started slowly and dug ourselves a hole." UMD fell behind 3-0 before tying game 3-3 to send it into overtime.
* On DU's Jason Zucker, a Wild forward prospect: "I would be fine if they signed him and got him out of there early."
Nate Schmidt, a sophomore defenseman, is the fourth-leading scorer on the Gophers with three goals and 35 assists for 38 points. He was asked his ideas on five topics this Wednesday.
1. Would you like to play North Dakota again? "Absolutely. You are focusing on the game on Saturday, but obviously it is in the back of your mind a little bit. It would be great to have another shot in the same building with the stakes a little higher."
(UND beat the Gophers 6-3 in the Final Five semifinals last week.)
2. What does making NCAA tournament mean for the seven seniors on the team? "It is a little bit excitement, a little bit tense, anxiety. We are ready to go for this weekend. And one of the things that is tough for us is this waiting game. Waiting for this weekend to come. We are just ready to go for a great weekend, hopefully. The seniors, they are taking control almost as if ... we have been here before."
(None of the Gophers have played in an NCAA tournament game.)
3. Thoughts on coach Don Lucia: "He is much more focused. I don’t think he has so much burden on his shoulders trying to deal with a lot of different things, which is one thing coach [Mike] Guentzel brought. He was able to take some of the pressure and tension off coach Lucia. ... It’s let him be a lot more relaxed. In the locker room, he is joking around with the guys.
"Winning cures a lot of things. I am sure coach will tell you the same thing, that he feels much better. It is coming back year by year. He looks great. He has a lot more confidence in himself and our team as well.
"[Success] all starts with a great coach and you can’t get anywhere without guys who have experience and guys who have been there before and know what it takes to win. We have a coaching staff that brings all types of unique experiences to the table. ... They all know what it takes. They all bring a unique dynamic to the team that is vital to our success."
Schmidt said there was a lot of uncertainty last spring about Lucia, who hadn't signed a contract extension, and perhaps about changes on his staff.
"It was a tough situation to be in all spring. And once coach found [everything] out, we all kind of buckled in. He kind of buckled down, too: 'OK, guys, we have to change a little bit. I know i have to change a little bit.' ... He seemed like a new, revamped guy after that. It really helped him as a person and it helped us as a team."
4. Thoughts on whether the Gophers can win four games in a row and become national champions? "If we play our best hockey, it is evident we can play with a lot of teams. We can play a lot of different styles in order to beat different teams."
5. Thoughts on how important the mental part of hockey is? "There is a guy last year that i am still in contact, Shawn Goodsell of Mental Edge. He is one of our sports psychologists guys that comes in. We go through a series of tests and he kind of breaks down our personalities through these tests.
"He just tries to say where we are at in the mental part of the game. ... What he told a lot of us was [about the importance of] being able to have short memory. ... This is definitely a good week for us to have a short memory."
The mental part of hockey, Schmidt said, " is the most important part. If you are not mentally dialed in. your body might be doing one thing, but your mind might be doing another thing. If you are not mentally focused on the game, you are not at your best."
Bonus question: What is the key to winning? "Coach has given us sheets, stat sheets the whole year. In the games we had less turnovers and more blocked shots, the games we were more dialed in, you see our record go up in the win column."
See the coaches are tryingt to support their words with statistics. Whatever works.
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