With NCAA men’s basketball selection Sunday coming up on March 15, we’ve reached the point in the season where it’s perfectly fine to spend a couple of minutes now and again looking at the various “bracketology” forecasts for the tournament.
Doing that right now shows the importance of Minnesota’s game on Sunday with Iowa, as well as the following three games vs. Indiana, Northwestern and Maryland. All except the game against the Wildcats, who are last in the Big Ten, are at Williams Arena.
Right now, to be honest, things don’t look good for the Gophers. Not hopeless. Just not good.
By the end of that four-game stretch, the picture should be clearer. With that in mind, here’s the latest look at some of the higher-profile tournament forecasts. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the go-to for many college basketball fans, has Minnesota as one of the first four teams out of the field.
Indiana is current on Lunardi’s list of the last four teams to make it, which could put extra emphasis on the Gophers-Hoosiers game on Wednesday. Lunardi has 11 of the Big Ten’s 14 teams going to the tournament in his current post – all but the Gophers, Wildcats and Nebraska.
By comparison, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports (the other big name in men's bracketology) doesn’t have Minnesota on the first-four-out bubble – and doesn’t have Indiana in the field, either.
Palm’s offerings on the web include a daily “Bubble Watch,” if you’re in the mood to stress out a bit more.
SB Nation’s Chris Dobbertean includes Minnesota at the bottom of his “next four teams” out after he lists the first four teams who currently don’t make his tournament field. (He also has 11 Big Ten teams in the tournament field.)
How about some very faint praise? USA Today puts Minnesota on a list of 20 teams “in no particular order” that have a chance to get an at-large bid after its listing of the tournament field and the first four teams out. Others on that list include Tulsa, Furman and a bunch of other schools that don’t enter most seasons with the expectations of going to the tournament
Now we'll leave Gophers fans with a reason for hope: The web site teambrackets.com says it runs “thousands of computer simulations of the college basketball season, including all remaining regular season games, all conference tournaments, NCAA selection and seeding, and the NCAA tournament itself” on a daily basis.
Are they saying the Gophers have a chance? A better than 50/50 chance? A Sweet 16 chance?
The answers are yes, yes and about 1 in 10.
You can see that data here, and read more about the Gophers' chances when Marcus Fuller previews Sunday's game in the Star Tribune.