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Road to Selection Sunday: Absent Win Over Ohio State, Gophers Spending Their Last Week Off The Bubble

02/18/2013, 9:45am CST
By SelectionSunday

BEEN HERE BEFORE, Minn. -- Officially the University of Minnesota men's basketball team won't be near the NCAA tournament cutline until after Wednesday night's expected loss to Ohio State, so its fans should enjoy this one final Monday with a "bubbleless" Gophers. Though the Gophers have all the necessary numbers required of a bubble team hoping to be selected for the NCAA field (#15 RPI, #2 overall SOS, #12 nonconference SOS, more than sufficient RPI top-50 and top-100 wins), a late-season slide (sound familiar?) has the Gophers slipping perilously close to the cutline/chopping block.
 
As of Monday morning this humble RTSS columnist still has the Gophers, at worst, approximately 10 spots from sitting directly on the bubble, not all bad considering the caliber of basketball the Gophers have produced since the second-half meltdown in Evanston. This week we'll take a closer look at the bubble; where the Gophers sit relative to it, who's close to it, who's on it, and who's still on the fringes, simply trying to get into the Bubblicious conversation.  
 
THE AUTO BIDS (31)
31 conferences receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. These are the current conference leaders, listed in order by RPI: #2 Miami-Florida (ACC); #3 New Mexico (Mountain West); #4 Florida (SEC); #5 Michigan State (Big 10); #6 Kansas (Big 12); #9 Syracuse (Big East); #11 Gonzaga (WCC); #24 Memphis (Conference USA); #25 Belmont (OVC); #27 Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt); #33 Wichita State (MVC); #36 VCU (A-10); #39 Oregon (Pac 12); #46 Louisiana Tech (WAC); #48 Akron (MAC); #60 Bucknell (Patriot); #67 South Dakota State (Summit); #82 Stephen F. Austin (Southland); #84 Valparaiso (Horizon); #87 Stony Brook (America East); #94 Davidson (Southern); #96 Harvard (Ivy); #107 Montana (Big Sky); #116 Long Beach State (Big West); #129 Robert Morris (NEC); #131 Niagara (MAAC); #145 Mercer (Atlantic Sun); #150 Northeastern (Colonial); #190 Norfolk State (MEAC); #192 Southern U (SWAC); and #235 High Point (Big South).
 
THE LOCKS (12)
Don't expect a free-fall from any of these squads. I feel very comfortable saying these 12 are certainties for the tournament: #1 Duke (ACC); #7 Louisville (Big East); #8 Michigan (Big 10); #10 Arizona (Pac 12); #12 Indiana (Big 10); #13 Colorado State (Mountain West); #14 Marquette (Big East); #16 Georgetown (Big East); #18 Butler (A-10); #20 Kansas State (Big 12); #23 Oklahoma State (Big 12); and #26 Wisconsin (Big 10).
 
So that gets us to 43 teams in the tournament. ...
 
SAFELY IN. ... FOR NOW (15)
As of today these 15 teams are comfortably in the tournament field, but in the next two weeks with simply a couple "Ws" could improve to "lock" status or, with a decline, drop to the bubble: #15 GOPHERS (Big 10); #17 Oklahoma (Big 12); #19 UNLV (Mountain West); #21 Colorado (Pac 12); #22 NC State (ACC); #28 Ohio State (Big 10); #29 Illinois (Big 10); #32 Pitt (Big East); #34 San Diego State (Mountain West); #35 LaSalle (A-10); #38 Missouri (SEC); #40 UCLA (Pac 12); #41 Cincinnati (Big East); #45 Saint Louis (A-10); and #50 Notre Dame (Big East).
 
Now we have 58 of the 68 spots filled. ...
 
SQUARELY ON THE BUBBLE (20)
Of these 20, by my estimation 10 would make the tournament: #30 North Carolina (ACC); #42 Boise State (Mountain West); #43 Creighton (MVC); #44 Kentucky (SEC); #47 Saint Mary's (WCC); #49 Iowa State (Big 12); #51 Ole Miss (SEC); #52 Temple (A-10); #53 Cal (Pac 12); #54 Baylor (Big 12); #56 Charlotte (A-10); #57 Villanova (Big East); #58 Saint John's (Big East); #59 Alabama (SEC); #61 Indiana State (MVC); #62 Maryland (ACC); #71 Arizona State (Pac 12); #77 Arkansas (SEC); #79 Virginia (ACC); and #80 Iowa (Big 10).
 
Of those 10, the first six I'd select are North Carolina, Creighton, Iowa State, Temple, Baylor, and Villanova.
 
My "last 4 in" would be #59 Alabama, #61 Indiana State, #62 Maryland, and #79 Virginia.
 
My "first 4 out" would be #42 Boise State, #44 Kentucky, #51 Ole Miss, and #71 Arizona State.
 
That leaves #47 Saint Mary's, #53 Cal, #56 Charlotte, #58 Saint John's, #77 Arkansas, and #80 Iowa also on the outside looking in, but still near the bubble equator.
 
LONGSHOTS (9)
I haven't forgotten about these nine squads, but they need a major push in the next couple weeks just to join the conversation: #37 Southern Miss (Conference USA); #55 UMass (A-10); #63 BYU (WCC); #64 Wyoming (Mountain West); #65 Florida State; #73 Stanford (Pac 12); #74 Ohio (MAC); #86 Providence (Big East); and #98 Xavier (A-10).
 
THIS WEEK'S BUBBLE SLATE
Monday
Rutgers @ Villanova
Tuesday
Florida State @ NC State
Maryland @ Boston College
North Carolina @ Georgia Tech
Southern Illinois @ Creighton
Virginia @ Miami-Florida
Wichita State @ Indiana State
Wyoming @ San Diego State
Wednesday
Air Force @ Boise State
Eastern Michigan @ Ohio
Iowa State @ Baylor
Mississippi State @ Alabama
Providence @ Syracuse
UMass @ Saint Bonaventure
USF @ Saint John's
UTEP @ Southern Miss
Washington State @ Arizona State
Xavier @ Rhode Island
Thursday
BYU @ Saint Mary's
Cal @ Oregon
Georgia @ Arkansas
Iowa @ Nebraska
LaSalle @ Temple
Stanford @ Oregon State
Saturday
Alabama @ LSU
Arkansas @ Florida
Auburn @ Ole Miss
Baylor @ Oklahoma
Boise State @ Fresno State
Cal @ Oregon State
Clemson @ Maryland
Creighton @ Saint Mary's (BracketBusters)
Dayton @ UMass
Iona @ Indiana State (BracketBusters)
Marquette @ Villanova
Missouri @ Kentucky
NC State @ North Carolina
Ohio @ Belmont (BracketBusters)
Providence @ Rutgers
Southern Miss @ Memphis
Stanford @ Oregon
Texas Tech @ Iowa State
UNLV @ Wyoming
VCU @ Xavier
Washington @ Arizona State
Sunday
Florida State @ Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech @ Virginia
Pitt @ Saint John's
Temple @ Charlotte
 
GOPHERS NONCONFERNCE OPPONENTS IN THE RPI
1. Duke (22-3)
24. Memphis (22-3)
65. Florida State (14-11)
67. South Dakota State (18-7)
73. Stanford (15-11)
78. North Dakota State (18-7)
81. Richmond (15-11)
93. Tennessee State (13-11)
100. USC (12-14)
174. Toledo (12-11)
199. Lafayette (12-14)
236. North Florida (9-17)
247. American (10-15)
 
GOPHER RESUME NUMBERS
Just in case these numbers become more relevant on Selection Sunday (if the slide continues), currently the Gophers are 4-6 vs. the RPI top 50 (a solid mark), 12-7 vs. the top 100 (a great number), and 5-5 in road/neutral games vs. the RPI top 100 (also solid). It certainly wouldn't hurt to win in Columbus on Wednesday. If the Gophers beat either Ohio State or Indiana -- doesn't seem possible at this point, I know -- I can't envision any scenario where they'd get left out of the tournament. Beating the Buckeyes or Hoosiers would be a final huge notch in the belt, erasing any doubt about their March destination (NCAA or NIT).
 
BUFFALO WILD WINGS COMMERCIAL ("WE'RE IN?")
**Love the new BWW commercial where it's announced the NCAA Tournament field will expand to 256 teams. Hilarious ("We're in?"), and true 'dat indeed if in the future the NCAA attempts to ruin March Madness by continuing to expand the field. Nothing says "NCAA Tournament" like, for example, Central Michigan (8-16 and currently #256 in the RPI) getting a spot in the tournament.
 
UPSET SPECIAL
With my current record, I'm goin' big this week; have nothing to lose. ...
Record: 2-9
Streak: L-1
Last Week: Air Force over Colorado State (L -- Colton Iverson & Company beat the AFA, 89-86)
This Week: Providence over Syracuse (Wednesday; a Friars win would snap the nation's longest home winning streak)

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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball