Friday, March 20, 2009

Not a Good Day for the Maroon and Gold

  • The Gopher Basketball team's NCAA Tournament run was one-and-done with a 76-62 loss to Texas Thursday evening in Greensboro, NC. A.J. Abrams paced Texas with 26 points, highlighted by 8-15 shooting from three-point range. Dexter Pittman added 17 points and 16 rebounds (5 offensive), as the Longhorns chewed-up Minnesota on the glass, 54-37. The Gophers shot just 41% (31% from beyond the arc), but Texas's outside shooting was just too much, especially in the second half. The Longhorns advance to play Duke on Saturday, while the Gophers will return home.
  • There will be no further NCAA Basketball Tournament coverage on this site in light of the Gophers' loss. We'll have a recap of the Gopher Hoops' season coming up later in the week.


On the hockey side, the Gophers will now await the selection committee's decision on NCAA Tournament bids after losing to UMD 2-1 at Xcel Energy Center in the play-in game of the WCHA Final Five. The Bulldogs will move on to play North Dakota Friday evening, while the Gophers are done and have to wait to see if they earned a bid in the tournament, the field of which will be announced on Sunday morning.

MacGregor Sharp and Matt Greer scored for UMD, and Alex Stalock was spectacular in goal, stopping 39 of 40 Minnesota shots. Cade Fairchild notched the only tally for the Gophers, who battled the flu throughout the game. Starting goaltender Alex Kangas stopped 9 of 10 UMD shots before leaving before the start of the second period due to illness. Kent Patterson made 19 of 20 saves after entering in relief.

The Gophers simply did not have their legs in this one. UMD came out hungry in the first period and Sharp's goal after a misplayed Kangas rebound gave the Dogs a 1-0 first period lead. Stalock was spectacular during a mid-first period two-man Gopher advantage, and never looked back. The Gophers were flat in the second period and gave up Greer's goal after surrendering a 2-on-1 after a UMD penalty expired. After Patterson made the first two saves, Greer banged in the rebound to make it 2-0 after two periods.

Minnesota controlled the action in the third period and Fairchild's goal with 13:52 remaining gave them a boost. However, Stalock stood his ground, and the Gophers missed a glorious chance on a Nico Sachetti re-direct which went just wide of the net, giving the Dogs the well-deserved win.

Now, we wait. The PairWise after Thursday's loss shows the Gophers dropping to 14th position and leapfrogged by UMD. What Gopher fans need to do the balance of the weekend is root for the following teams currently in the top 10 of the PairWise (with Friday's opponent listed as well):

  • Boston University - vs. Boston College
  • Notre Dame - vs. Northern Michigan
  • Michigan - vs. Alaska
  • Denver - vs. Wisconsin
  • North Dakota - vs. UMD
  • Northeastern - vs. Mass-Lowell
  • Yale - vs. St. Lawrence
  • Vermont - Idle
  • New Hampshire - Idle
  • Cornell - vs. Princeton

If teams in the top ten win out this weekend, the Gophers should be able to snag an at-large bid despite not playing Friday or Saturday. Therefore, as far as the WCHA is concerned Friday, go North Dakota (ouch, that hurts) and Denver!

Strange as it may sound, the Gophers are probably in a better position now with the loss than they would have been had they beaten UMD and lost Friday to North Dakota.

My buddy, Jeff Atkins, breaks down the PairWise as follows:

The PairWise looks as expected, UMD leapfrogging the Gophers (mind you, they can still be reeled in with 2 more losses this weekend). Miami also jumps overs the Gophs (I don't think they can be caught, who would think not playing actually benefits you), as we currently sit at the final 14th spot.

The big scores we'll have to keep an eye on are BC and St. Lawrence (Hockey East does not have a 3rd place game), so we really do need 2 losses from St. Lawrence. Considering they are the 4th place team out of the top 4 left in ECAC I hope this will happen easily enough. Obviously we also can't have teams like UMD, Wisconsin, Fairbanks, Northern Michigan, Mass-Lowell winning their tourneys.

In many scenarios, the Gophers end up tied with Ohio St. in pairwise points. Ohio St has the RPI advantage, so it may very well come down to secret bonus points.

Friday WCHA Matchups:

  • #3 Wisconsin vs. #2 Denver - The Pioneers went 4-0 against the Badgers in 2008-09
  • #7 UMD vs. #1 North Dakota - The Bulldogs went 1-0-1 on the Sioux this year. However, both wins occurred in 2008.


  • Wisconsin/Denver - Have to go with Denver in this one. It's a hard prospect to beat the same team five times in the same season, but the Pioneers have some added incentive to sew up a #1 seed with a win here and end Wisconsin's season at the same time. Coach George Gwozdecky's can end his alma mater's run with a win, as the Badgers absolutely need to go 2-0 this weekend to leapfrog Minnesota and snag an at-large bid.
  • UMD/North Dakota - The Sioux are 15-2-3 since the calendar turned to 2009 and will win this one easily. They will make a strong case for a #1 seed with a regular season and tournament championship.

I'll be at both games Friday and will have a recap Saturday despite the Gophers' absence in the Friday slate of games for the first time since 1998.

In other news around the WCHA:

  • The league's awards were announced, and there was some M&G representation
  • The finalists for the Hobey Baker Award were also announced. Congratulations to Minnesotan Jamie McBain of Wisconsin being nominated, but the rest of the league was snubbed big-time.

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