Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 23, 2017

Last night was a huge step forward for Minnesota in proving they belong in the discussion of tournament contenders.  The win moved the Gophers into 4th place in the Big10 standings, and 2nd in terms of bracket standing.  There will still be some skeptics, but if Selection Sunday were today, Minnesota would be a borderline #4 or #5 seed.  If they can keep the winning streak alive against Penn State on Sunday, they'll undoubtedly be ranked and would lock up a top-6 seed with a win over Nebraska next Thursday.

Quick selection scenario update.  The best case scenario of winning their remaining 7 games leading up to Selection Sunday would still be on track for a #3, or possibly low #2 seed/high #4 seed.

The worst-case scenario is 21-11 with an RPI near 25 and 6 top-50 wins with no sub-100 losses.  That should slot them at a #7 seed, or at worst #8.

The most likely scenario now is a 2-1 finish in the regular season with a 1-1 showing in the Big10 tournament (semifinal loss).  That leaves a record of 24-9, top-20 RPI and a likely #5 seed.  

Just a couple of Gophers resume stats for any of you who doubt the possibility of a #2-#3 seed with a strong finish.
1. Their Strength of Win is 8th in the nation, behind only Kansas, UNC, Butler, Louisville, Vanderbilt and Baylor.
2. Their 6 top-50 wins is tied for 8th in the nation, behind only UNC, Butler, Villanova, Duke, Florida State, Baylor and Kansas.

There were several other big games last night which resulted in a few minor bracket shifts.  Duke lost to Syracuse, which bumped them down to a #3 seed and moved 'Cuse up to the very edge of the bubble.  The Orange just need to get their RPI up about 5 spots to qualify for an at-large bid.  They'll have a great opportunity to do so against Louisville on Sunday, but with 12 losses already, the Orange can hardly afford to lose that tough matchup.

Speaking of Louisville, they lost in Chapel Hill last night to a North Carolina team who showed they deserve to be on the top seed line.  Louisville's grueling schedule keeps them on the #2 line for now, but they'll need to win their last two regular season games to stay there.  Not that it matters, but if UNC can remain at 5 losses by Selection Sunday, they should move ahead of unbeaten Gonzaga for a top-3 #1 seed.  

Despite losing to Butler at home last night, I still have Villanova as my overall #1 seed for two reasons.  First, their 9 top-50 wins is tied for best in the nation, two better than Kansas's 7.  Second, their three losses have been against an average RPI of 30.3, compared to Kansas's three losses against an average RPI of 55.7.  Kansas has a slight edge in strength of win (RPI #89 vs Nova's #107), and a decidedly better SOS (#5 vs #29), but Nova gets the very close nod.  

This bracket is created as if today were Selection Sunday, not a forward looking projection.

1's: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, North Carolina
2's: Baylor, Oregon, Louisville, Butler
3's: Arizona, Duke, Florida State, Florida
4's: Kentucky, UCLA, Purdue, Cincinnati
5's: Minnesota, Creighton, Notre Dame, Wisconsin
6's: Saint Mary's, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia
7's: SMU, South Carolina, Miami (FL), USC
8's: Xavier, Dayton, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech
9's: Northwestern, VCU, Michigan, Arkansas
10's: Seton Hall, Iowa State, Marquette, Michigan State
11's: Kansas State, California, TCU, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Wichita State
12's: Middle Tennessee, UNC Wilmington, Nevada, UTA
13's: New Mexico State, Monmouth, East Tennessee State, Valparaiso
14's: Princeton, Vermont, Belmont, UNC Asheville
15's: Akron, Florida Gulf Coast, Bucknell, North Dakota State
16's: Eastern Washington, North Carolina Central, Texas Southern, New Orleans, Mount Saint Mary's, UC Irvine

FFO: Syracuse, Illinois, Providence, Georgia Tech
NFO: Rhode Island, Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia 

Others still in contention for At-Large bid:
(<14 losses, Top-150 SOS, 3+ Top-100 wins)
9. Clemson
10. Pittsburgh
11. Tennessee
12. Indiana
13. Ohio State
14. Texas Tech
15. Boise State
16. Auburn
17. Texas A&M
18. Iowa
19. Houston
20. Colorado
21. Colorado State
22. Fresno State
23. BYU
24. Charleston
25. New Mexico
26. San Diego State
27. Stanford
28. Connecticut
29. La Salle

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