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Road to Selection Sunday: Decision Time For Gophers; Make A February Push Or Sweat It Out?

01/28/2013, 7:30am CST
By SelectionSunday

It's time for this Trio to figure out the appropriate buttons to push and tweaks to make to get the season back on track.

CONTENDER/PRETENDER, Minn. -- The penultimate month of the college basketball season arrives Friday. So after Minnesota defeats Nebraska on Tuesday night -- and they will -- the Gophers must decide in February if they want to spend Selection Sunday sweating it out on the bubble or spend it "free and easy" wondering only about their seed and game location. If January's mostly about conference positioning, February is all about separating the contenders from the pretenders.
 
The Gophers (15-5, 3-4 B1G) enter a key five-game stretch where they play four games at Williams Arena. Despite a panic-inducing four-game losing streak, the Gophers' #11 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) has them safely in any credible NCAA Tournament projection. However, that could change quickly if the Gophers produce a few more stinkers like the one last week at Northwestern.
 
Last season a dreadful 1-7 February doomed the Gophers' NCAA tourney chances. If Tubby Smith's squad wants a stress-free weekend heading to Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament, I'd suggest they "make hay" with their seven February games in 2013, starting Super Bowl Sunday at The Barn vs. the rival Iowa Hawkeyes.
 
Odds 'N Ends 
* BracketBusters pairings will be announced later today. Here's one man's projection of the nine games we'll see Feb. 22-23 on ESPN2 and ESPNU: #30 Creighton @ #14 Belmont; #60 South Dakota State @ #18 Wichita State; #59 North Dakota State @ #50 Indiana State; #97 Ohio @ #61 Saint Mary's; #76 Eastern Kentucky @ #67 Akron; #77 Stephen F. Austin @ #82 Valpo; #86 Detroit @ #90 Western Michigan; #95 Iona @ @96 Murray State; and #125 Montana @ #98 Oral Roberts. It's unfortunate teams like #35 Middle Tennessee, #42 Louisiana Tech, #45 Bucknell, #91 Harvard, and #92 Stony Brook -- all current conference leaders -- are not part of BracketBusters. 
 
** The Indiana-Michigan State game on Sunday was college basketball at its finest. It doesn't get much better than that. Two really good and well-coached teams making plays and making shots under the intense pressure of a big-time atmosphere. In particular, IU slasher Victor Oladipo and Sparty big man Adreian Payne made themselves a lot of money yesterday.
 
*** Speaking of Oladipo, last week I didn't include him on my (current) All-B1G 1st Team. After watching his performance vs. Michigan State on Sunday (21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals, 3 blocks), all I can offer in my own defense is, "Oops."
 
**** Gotta' believe that any Big Ten team reaching 9-9 in regular-season play will be in great shape for an at-large bid, with the exception of Purdue and perhaps Iowa. For the record, there's no way in "he (double hockey sticks)" Northwestern gets to 9-9. Somebody remind me again, how did the Gophers lose to that motley crew? 
 
***** Biggest winners last week? Villanova (home wins over Louisville and Syracuse) and LaSalle (home win over Butler, road win @ VCU) leap into my Field of 68 Projection (see below) with a combined four wins vs. ranked teams.
 
****** It's a huge week for at least five teams hovering at or near the NCAA Tournament bubble:
(1) Boise State -- @ Colorado State (Wednesday), UNLV (Saturday);
(2) Illinois -- @ Michigan State (Thursday), Wisconsin (Sunday);
(3) Kentucky -- @ Ole Miss (Tuesday), @ Texas A&M (Saturday);
(4) UMass -- @ LaSalle (Wednesday), @ Charlotte (Saturday); and
(5) Wyoming -- New Mexico (Wednesday), @ Colorado State (Saturday).
 
Gophers Nonconference Opponents in the RPI
1. Duke (17-2)
48. Memphis (16-3)
59. North Dakota State (14-5)
60. South Dakota State (13-6)
69. Florida State (11-8)
70. Richmond (13-8)
75. Stanford (12-8)
99. Tennessee State (10-10)
130. USC (8-13)
200. Toledo (7-10)
216. Lafayette (9-12)
249. North Florida (7-14)
283. American (7-13)
Combined D-I Record of Opponents: 144-112 (56.3%)
Average RPI of Opponents: 119.923
 
FIELD OF 68 PROJECTION (1/28/13)
America East (1): Stony Brook (92)
ACC (4): Duke (1), *Miami (3), NC State (15), North Carolina (36)
Atlantic Sun (1): Florida Gulf Coast (117)
Atlantic 10 (4): *Butler (10), LaSalle (26), VCU (39), Temple (56)  
Big East (8): Syracuse (9), Louisville (13), *Marquette (20), Cincinnati (27), Georgetown (38), Notre Dame (46), Villanova (49), Pitt (52)
Big Sky (1): Montana (125)
Big South (1): Charleston Southern (170)
Big 10 (7): *Michigan (6), GOPHERS (11), Michigan State (12), Indiana (16), Ohio State (24), Illinois (33), Wisconsin (47)
Big 12 (6): *Kansas (2), Oklahoma (22), Baylor (34), Kansas State (37), Iowa State (41), Oklahoma State (44)
Big West (1): Long Beach State (102)
Colonial (1): Northeastern (109)
Conference USA (2): *Southern Miss (40), Memphis (48)
Horizon (1): Valpo (82)
Ivy (1): Harvard (91)
Metro Atlantic (1): Niagara (120)
MAC (1): Akron (67)
MEAC (1): Norfolk State (194)
Missouri Valley (2): *Wichita State (18), Creighton (30)
Mountain West (5): *New Mexico (7), UNLV (17), Colorado State (23), San Diego State (29), Boise State (66)
Northeast (1): Robert Morris (144)
Ohio Valley (1): Belmont (14)
Pac 12 (5): Arizona (4), *Oregon (19), Colorado (21), UCLA (32), Arizona State (58)
Patriot (1): Bucknell (45)
SEC (4): *Florida (5), Missouri (25), Ole Miss (31), Kentucky (62)
Southern (1): Davidson (110)
Southland (1): Stephen F. Austin (77)
SWAC (1): Southern U (173)
Summit (1): Western Illinois (133)
Sun Belt (1): Middle Tennessee (35)
West Coast (1): Gonzaga (8)
WAC (1): Louisiana Tech (42) 
 
Last 4 In: Memphis (48), Arizona State (58), Kentucky (62), Boise State (66)
First 4 Out: BYU (43), Wyoming (54), Saint Mary's (61), Saint Louis (68)
Non-BCS At-Larges (9): UNLV (17), Colorado State (23), LaSalle (26), San Diego State (29), Creighton (30), VCU (39), Memphis (48), Temple (56), Boise State (66)
 
The Next Dozen: Indiana State (50), Saint John's (51), UMass (53), Charlotte (54), North Dakota State (59), South Dakota State (60), Alabama (63), Maryland (65), Florida State (69), Xavier (72), Washington (73), Iowa (84)  
 
Upset Special
Record: 1-8
Last Week: LaSalle over Butler (W, LaSalle wins 54-53; thanks to FTB for an assist, allowing me to accept the win)
This Week: Stanford over Oregon (Wednesday)

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