Tuesday, January 24, 2017

And the Season Begins Tonight (not technically)

Well here we go.  Time to see how the screw this up, but the path to the tournament really begins tonight.  It would have been awfully nice to take a game at Michigan State or Wisconsin at home or not lose to god damn Penn State, but here we are.  Looking at the wins and losses and computer numbers (RPI #16 , SoS #7), this team is right in line for a tournament bid.  All they need is a mere 6 more victories in their last 11 games.  That's it.  6-5.  That's 21 wins overall and a 9-9 conference record.  With everything else, that's all it'll take.

Even if they lose some terrible games like to Rutgers or something, if they're at 9 wins that'll mean they picked up another good win somewhere to balance it out.  Or if they pick up absolutely no more good wins, if they get 6 more victories it'll mean there aren't any crappy losses to drag them down.  Six more wins.  6 wins out of eleven games.  That's it.  Do it.

Looking at the Final eleven games, kenpom.com has the Gophers favored to win in 7 of them.  They also predict a one point loss tonight at Ohio State.  And a two point loss next month at Maryland.  The road game at Wisconsin to close out the regular season is the only game they're a significant underdog in, and we better hope to god they don't need it.

Oh, and guess how many home games this team has remaining?  Six.  Maryland, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Penn State, and Nebraska.  Every single one of those games is 100% winnable.  That would be enough.  I've said before I really wish Penn State and Nebraska home games were earlier in the season so they'd have some breathing room down the stretch, but I called and they wouldn't let me change the schedule so here we are.  Grab a "good" win or two and it won't matter, but those games need to be victories.

The road games:  Ohio State, Illinois, Rutgers, Maryland, and Wisconsin.  I actually started involuntarily shaking typing that since as a Gopher fan I'm conditioned to break down weeping whenever I have to discuss them going on the road, but I'm not letting them off the hook this year.  They already beat two good teams in Purdue and Northwestern away from Williams, so they can handle any of these non-Badger teams (Penn State meltdown aside).

It doesn't get any simpler than that.  The blueprint is there.  It's easy.  It's right in front of them. I don't feel like getting deep into what's good and what's bad with this team, or what's going on with Jordan Murphy's sudden disappearance or Nate Mason's shot or the overall offensive problems or great defense or why Reggie Lynch doesn't get the ball more. I just want 6 wins.  Anything less than 6 wins is a complete and utter failure at this point.  Don't break my heart.  Again.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Path to the Tournament

I can't believe I'm saying this, but the Gophers have a clear, and relatively simple, to an NCAA bid at this point.  I know, I know.  It's the Gophers, nothing is too dreadful to be out of their reach.  But at 14-2, with (according to ESPN) the #5 RPI and #9 strength of schedule the computer numbers are rock solid.  The SoS won't change much since it's all Big Ten play from here, and the RPI will only change dramatically if they go into freefall, which torpedo their chances anyway.  Those are great, great numbers.  The only other teams top 10 in both metrics are Villanova, Florida, and Kentucky.  Whoever put this schedule did a great job, but the team had to come through and they certainly have to this point.

14-2.  Who would have guessed.  And of the fourteen wins they have one over a Top 25 team (Arkansas), three more over Top 50 teams (Purdue, UT-Arlington, Vandy), and three more over Top 100 teams (Northwestern, Arkansas State, Lafayette).  Since the two losses are both against top 50 teams, things look pretty good.  Some of those RPIs will probably shift a bucket here and there, but make no mistake right now, this is a bullet proof resume.

Unfortunately right now only means a good start, and there is a whole big rest of the season left.  I believe the Gophers need 9 conference wins at this point to guarantee a bid.  Eight might do it as well with the computer numbers, but nine would be solid lead pipe lock status.  So let's see how we get there, shall we?

Looking at kenpom, since spreads tend to be pretty close to his estimates or at least within a few points, the Gophers will be favored in 3 games by double digits.  Call these the gimmies:  home vs. Iowa, home vs. Penn State, and home vs. Nebraska.  Those games are far later in the season than I'd like since I'd prefer to bang them out now rather than sweat them when they might become must wins, but those are three easy games.

There are seven more games (7!!!) they should be favored in:  vs. Ohio State, @Penn State, vs. Maryland, @Illinois, @Rutgers, vs. Indiana, and vs. Michigan.  If they take care of the three gimmies, and man, I really do wish those games weren't at the tail end of the season, they only have to go 4-3 in this group.  4-3!

The remaining games are the two vs. Wisconsin, @ Michigan State, @ Maryland, and @ Ohio State and the Gophers have shown they can win on the road already this year, so none of those are out of the realm of possibility.

Let's look at this in even a simpler way.  Kenpom also gives a % chance of victory.  Even if the Gophers only win the games he pegs them at 70% or greater, that still gets them to 8 conference wins, and leaves nine other games to pick up one win - just one!

There are plenty of red flags if you dig into their advanced stats but I am choosing to ignore that now because they have a really, really simple path to make the tournament and they are looking really, really good and are really, really fun.  In case you can't tell, yes, I've bought in.  That never ends well.  Hold on to your butts.