America’s softball coaches think the Gophers are the No. 1 team in the country, no matter what the NCAA tournament selection committee says.
Two days after being passed over for one of the top 16 seeds in the NCAA tournament, the Gophers (54-3) climbed to No. 1 on Tuesday in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll.
The top ranking, a program first, came as the Gophers packed for Tuscaloosa, Ala., where they’ll open the tournament Friday against Louisiana Tech.
Riding a 25-game winning streak, Minnesota received 18 of 32 first-place votes in the latest coaching poll and edged out previous No. 1 Florida. Poll voters include one head coach from each of the country’s 32 Division I softball conferences.
The Gophers were No. 2 in last week’s coaches poll and finished No. 11 in the RPI rankings after winning last weekend’s Big Ten tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich.
But the NCAA selection committee found 16 other teams to seed ahead of the Gophers, citing Minnesota’s relatively weak strength of schedule (114th of 295 teams), and specifically their low number of wins against top 10 teams (zero) and top 25 teams (two).
On Monday, Gophers coach Jessica Allister was asked why the sport even conducts polls, considering how little impact it had on Minnesota’s NCAA tournament placement.
“You should ask someone else, I’m not sure,” Allister said, smiling. “Yeah, that’s a good question. Again, that’s out of our control. And as mad as I am about it, I think it’s really, really important that we focus on — the goals that we set aside as a team are still attainable.”
Besides Louisiana Tech and Minnesota, the other teams in the four-team, double-elimination Tuscaloosa Regional are Albany and No. 16-seed Alabama. The winner likely will face No. 1-seeded Florida over Memorial Day weekend in a best-of-three Super Regional.