Saturday Bubble Watch — what the Gophers need to happen

Jace Frederick

The Gophers joined the ranks of the idol on Friday with their blowout loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

Judging from Twitter reactions after the game, you would have thought the loss was an instant eliminator for Minnesota — I'm not so sure it was.

Even after the loss — the degree of which obviously doesn't help the Gophers case — Minnesota sits as the second-to-last team OUT of Lunardi's projected field. That's well within striking distance, even with no games to play.

Yes, the Gophers only have two wins against Top-50 RPI teams. Yes, Minnesota was putrid on the road this season. But, the Gophers RPI (49) isn't bad and their strength of schedule (sixth-best in the country) is phenomenal. The Gophers have a shot. In my opinion, they'll either be one of the very last teams in or or one of the very last out.

Which means nearly every game around the country on Saturday can affect their odds in one way or another.

So here's a little guide I made of what the Gophers need to help their chances:

*RPI and SOS numbers are from Live-RPI.com (kudos to Gopherhole.com for bringing the site to my attention) and are updated as of the completion of Friday night's games.

Florida over Tennessee:

?Why?: Tennessee is on the bubble. Right now the Volunteers sit in Joe Lunardi’s “Last Four Byes” list. So while Tennessee appears to be in, that’s not a lock, unless it beats Florida.

Virginia over Pittsburgh:

Why?: Similar to the Tennessee scenario, Pittsburgh likely locked up its bid with a win over UNC on Friday, but the 70th-best strength of schedule leaves something to be desired. Yes, Pitt has a RPI of 38, but only two wins against the RPI top 50. The Panthers are already probably in, but a win vs. Virginia would lock up a bid.

St. Bonaventure over St. Joe’s:

Why?: St. Joe’s is currently one spot ahead of Tennessee in that “First Four Byes” list for Lunardi. The Hawks do have five wins against Top-50 RPI teams (three are against Dayton), but the 145th-best non-conference SOS isn’t great. The Hawks are no shoe-in, and a loss to St. Bonaventure would be a bad one. Yes, this only helps the Gophers if the Bonnies go ahead and lose in the A-10 title game to either VCU or George Washington, but that should happen.

Ohio State over Michigan:

Why?: Minnesota beat the Buckeyes once this season. The Gophers need their good wins to look as good as they can possibly be. The more Ohio State wins, the better it looks for Minnesota.

Duke over NC State:

Why?: NC State is creeping up the bubble of late. The Wolfpack beat Syracuse on Friday to get to the ACC semifinals. NC State currently sits in Lunardi’s “Next Four Out,” so a loss on Saturday would seem to all but eliminate it from NCAA contention. A win? That could make the Wolfpack a very possible selection.

Kentucky over Georgia:

Why?: Georgia has an RPI of 66 and a SOS of 69. Those numbers aren’t good. But a 12-6 SEC team in the regular season could always make a case for a bid, and a win over Kentucky in the SEC semis would strengthen that case and put the Bulldogs one win away from a guaranteed berth in the dance.

Wisconsin over Michigan State: 

Why?: See Ohio State. Also, if Wisconsin can win the Big Ten Tournament, the Badgers are a likely No. 1 seed. It never hurts to have a win over a No. 1 seed on your resume. Plus, the Gophers played Wisconsin three times this season and Michigan State just once, so a Badgers win would help Minnesota’s RPI and SOS.

Creighton over Providence:

Why?: The Friars have undoubtedly helped themselves out this week, but they’re not a lock. Providence is currently Lunardi’s second-to-last team in the field, meaning the Friars are a candidate the Gophers could beat out. Providence has just two top-50 RPI wins (one a home win vs. Creighton), a lack of a great road win, a RPI of 48 and a SOS of 67. That’s not that great. The Friars could easily be passed over by the committee if they don’t win on Saturday.