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.
Sophomore Wally Ellenson of the Gophers can jump.
And on Friday he cleared 6-9-1/2 on the first try at the NCAA West Prelims in Fayetteville, Ark. Then he cleared 6-11-1/2 on the first try and 7-1, too.
Then he stopped. So did everyone who made that height. All of them made the NCAA meet June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore.
The top 12 high jumpers advanced, and 11 cleared 7-1.
Ellenson was one of six who did it without a miss up to that height, so he tied for first.
He'll, obviously, have to go higher at Eugene if he wants to duplicate what he did a year ago, an All-America showing with a top eight finish.
Teammate Jon Lehman, a senior captain on the U track and field team also is headed West. He finished fourth in the hammer throw, heaving the hammer 214 feet on his fifth toss. Five of his six throws were over 200 feet, so he was pretty consistent.
This will be his first NCAA meet.
Zach Siegmeier, another senior, tied for sixth in the pole vault on Thursday, earning a spot in the national meet as well.
“We’re certainly happy for Jon and Wally. They’ve both had great seasons for us, and we’re excited about their prospects next month in Eugene,” said Steve Plasencia, director of the Gophers men's track and field program.
“We have one more day to move some guys on, and hopefully we’ll continue the success we’ve had over the first two days of competition.”
Gophers men will be competing in three events on Saturday: discus, 1,500 and 4x400.
Oregon coach Mike White was piling it on after the Ducks embarrassed the Gophers 10-2 on Saturday night in a softball Super Regional.
"Minnesota is a great opponent. ... They never give up, they keep coming. ... I'm sure it will be a tough series tomorrow. ... Don't think this is over."
Was he serious? Hard to say. Not sure about this New Zealand native with Midwest ties -- he went to Mt. Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
What is probable, is that the Gophers will play better at 4 p.m. Sunday (ESPN) when the teams meet again. Hard to play worse.
The Ducks ran around the bases at will when Sara Moulton was on the mound. She was tagged for eight runs -- four earned -- and eight hits in three innings.
Nikki Anderson, a sophomore lefthander, was more effective: Two runs in two-plus inning, four hits.
Maybe the Big Ten pitcher of the year can do even better.
Sara Groenewegen played first base Saturday, but the Gophers have to start her in Game 2. She's a power pitcher who can keep Ducks off the bases.
The freshman righthander has struck out 185 in 112 innings. She whiffs 11.6 per seven innings -- that's the best rate in the country.
Groenewegen has struck out 10 or more batters seven times this season. Her season-best is 14, a mark set in her second-career start against Central Arkansas. She tied that number May 2 in a 3-0 loss at Purdue.
The Gophers need to slow down the Ducks' offense, which thrives on speed, which in turn creates chaos.
Minnesota committed four errors Saturday. Each pitcher made made, center fielder Bree Blanchette made one and catcher Taylor LeMay one. The Ducks also were 4-for4 stealing bases.
"We tried to play the game a little fast," Gophers coach Jessica Allister said.
"We struggled," shortstop Tyler Walker said.
The Ducks were as fired up as could be. Last year, when they were the No. 3 seed in the tournament, Nebraska came to Eugene and won 2-of-3 to end Oregon's season.
Oregon didn't want a repeat.
Iowa beat the Gophers 2-1 on Thursday in the losers' bracket of the Big Ten tournament, ending Minnesota's season.
"We left a ton of guys on base the last two days," Anderson said, "and a number of guys in scoring position."
The Gophers lost 3-2 to Michigan in their first game.
"You've got to be able to come up with the big hit. ... Everybody has pretty good pitcher and defense. You can't expect to score three runs in two games and be on the [right] side of the won/loss column."
Junior righthander Ben Meyer pitched a four-hitter against Iowa and gave up only one earned run.
"Ben deserved a better fate, no question about it. But we didn't deliver on offense and that has been out struggle all season long -- to be consistent on offense and be able to have quality at-bats.
"We've got to fix that going ahead into 2015."
The Gophers scored their only run in the fourth inning on Dan Olinger's run-scoring double in the fourth.
But the Hawkeyes tied the score in the bottom of the inning on an unearned run and won on a sacrifice fly in the eight.
"I felt great out there," Meyer said. "I had a really good feel for all three of my pitches. And I probably had the best control of my slider, I had all year."
The hitters, though, did an adequate job of getting on base. Four got hits, three got hit by pitches and two walked. The Gophers stranded nine runners, though.
"We didn't do a good enough job on offense, of executing our end of the bargain," Olinger said. "They changed speeds and hit their spots when they needed to.
"It's a battle between pitchers and hitters and they won today. ... Hitting is contagious. ... Sometimes you don't put the at-bat that you want together at the right time."
Maybe next time. Maybe next year.
Anderson was asked after the loss to Iowa about preparations for next season.
"It starts today," he said. "You've got to start thinking aahead, you've got to start planning.You've got to figure out how to make the team better."
And Anderson is optimistic he and his staff can.
"I like the young players in our program, I really do," he said. "I like the last two classes and we've got a good one coming in. There is something to work with here.
"I just hope we have a better spring next year. We can't have three [bad ones] in a row. We have to have a good one, don't we? ... We've got a lot of work to do, but we are not wilting."
Neither did the Gophers, who finished 27-24 this season.
"At the beginning of the tournament, because of the injuries we had, I said I was surprised," Anderson said. "This was probably a team that very easily could have ended up in 10th or 11th place [in the conference] based on what we went through."
Instead the Gophers tied Michigan for fourth in the Big Ten standings and were the fourth seed in the conference tournament.
'They never gave up, they never gave in. They competed," Anderson said. "They competed here [in Omaha]. We have some things we need to work on, no doubt about it."
Shortstop Travis Maezes is not a home run hitter.
He is the leadoff hitter for Michigan. But Wednesday night, with two runners aboard, he saw a pitch he liked and turned on it.
Maezes' third home run of the season, to right center field, gave the Wolverines a 3-2 victory over the Gophers on Day 1 of the Big Ten baseball tournament in Omaha, Neb.
"Travis is one of our best clutch hitters," Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. "Big-time players make big plays when you need them the most. We needed a cluch hit and he delivered."
He sure did.
His homer came in the seventh inning. At the time, Michigan (29-27-1) was trailing 2-0 and running out of innings.
Until then, the Gophers were making all the big plays. Behind the plate, catcher Mark Tatera threw out a runner trying to steal second base in the first inning, tagged out a runner at home in the second and picked off a runner at first in the third.
"Early on we got some baserunners," Bakich said, "but we were a bit overly aggressive. We had some baserunning mistakes that cost us."
The Gophers took a 1-0 lead in the fourth, scoring on Mike Handel's RBI double. Connor Schaefbauer's single in the fifth brought in another run for a 2-0 lead.
"The difference early," Bakich said, "was Minnesota got the two our RBIs and separated the game a little bit. We were looking for find our rhythm. Credit [Alec] Crawford for settling in and doing a nice job of mixing his pitches."
Crawford was the Gophers starter. He gave up three runs on 10 hits in 6-1/3 innings.
But he kept the Wolverines scoreless until the seventh. Then two batters on the bottom of the Michigan order got on base. Jacob Lamb and Eric Jacobson, the No. 8 and 9 hitters, both singled with one out. Maezes was next.
And he hit Crawford's 105th pitch a long ways.
The Gophers (29-27-1) will play Iowa at 1 p.m. today in the losers' bracket. Loser goes home,
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.
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