We're a month away from knowing which teams will make the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournament fields. Until their blowout victory over Indiana on Sunday, the Gophers men's had dropped four straight games and tumbling down the Big Ten standings. Meanwhile, the women's 30-point victory over Penn State on Sunday was their sixth in a row and moved them within one game of a double-bye in their conference tournament.
So you'd figure that the women with their 19-7 record, including their 12-0 start, would be in a better place place for the postseason than the up-and-down 17-9 men, right?
We'll spare you as many of the geeky details as we can. But the two main practitioners in the art of "Bracketology" ESPN's Joe Lunardi for the men and Charlie Creme for the women have Minnesota in the men's tournament but not in the women's field of 64.
Lunardi current ranking has the Gophers men's team seeded 12th in the Midwest Regional and meeting No. 5 seed Louisville in a first-round battle of current-and-past coached Pitino family teams. The 5/12 match-ups are often seen as the one where upsets are pulled off, and Louisville is a team that hasn't met some of the expectation that existed earlier in the season.
Also keep in mind that just because Minnesota is 12th right now, it doesn't have a lot of room to drop and be viable because of weaker teams from lower-profile conferences that will get automatic bids. Someone has to represent the Southwest Conference and a few others that are in the similar position of rarely, if ever, winning a first-round game.
In Lunardi's current bracket, he has Minnesota as one of the last four teams in the field aside from the four that he has figured for play-in games to fill Nos. 12 and 13 seeds.(Indiana is in that group.)
In Creme's women's field, the Gophers are done in, as much as anything, by their weak non-conference schedule.that helped them get off to a 12-0 start that fooled Associated Press poll voters into ranking them as high as 12th.
How weak? There are 351 teams playing Division I women's basketball and Minnesota had three of them ranked below No. 300 in the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index on their schedule: Incarnate World (308th), Coppin State (329th) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (346th). There were also two other games against teams that aren't in the "Top 250," not to mention to AP's Top 25.
The result is that the Gophers women have an RPI ranking of 102. They'll need a strong finish, perhaps as strong as reaching the title game of the Big Ten tournament next month to get into the tournament field. (One note: Creme's most recent rankings are a week old, before the U's victories over Purdue and Penn State. But it's still a steep climb ahead; Lunardi's most recent bracket was released Thursday.)
Among schools along the Minnesota border, Lunardi has South Dakota State as a 14th seed and Creme has South Dakota as an eighth seed.
The Minnesota men show up in three other current attempts at choosing a field: Jerry Palm and CBSsports.com has the Gophers as a ninth seed playing Buffalo, USA Today has them as an 11th seed playing Virginia Tech and Bracketville has them as a No. 9 playing Auburn.
The downside of being eighth or ninth seed, of course, is that winning your first-round almost certainly puts you in a second-round game against the No. 1-seed in your region. But that's a problem (or an opportunity) for another time.