Wolverine Bracketology: What Michigan's Tourney Road Could Look Like

Andy Lyons

Michigan escaped a well-prepared Illinois team yesterday afternoon, and now have to fend off Ohio State later today. Should Michigan continue to win and be fortunate to capture the conference tournament championship, a number one seed in the big dance is a real possibility. But a few teams need to stumble to push Michigan up the Selection Committee's board. Follow along for some Wolverine Bracketology.

Illinois gave Michigan all they could handle, but the hope for dual conference championships remains. The Buckeyes are next, and plenty of GRITBALL will take place later this afternoon. Looking beyond the games in Indianapolis, if Michigan is hoisting another trophy on Sunday afternoon, the NCAA Selection Committee will be hard pressed to keep the Wolverines out of a top seed in the east region.

That is because other conferences' tournaments have been bonkers, and teams ahead of Michigan in both the regular polls and bracket projections have lost.

The bracket projections have Michigan solidly in a number two seed, but vary on which region. SB Nation's own Chris Dobbertean currently places Michigan as a two seed in the South Region with opening games in Milwaukee. ESPN's Joe Lunardi puts the Wolverines in the East, but also as a two seed. CBS Sports' Jerry Palm projects Michigan in the South on the two line as well. USA Today, meanwhile, has already penciled Michigan into the number one seed in the east.

Advancing deep into a conference tournament used to be viewed as a negative for a team's prospects for a long run in the NCAA Tournament, but no longer. Conference tournaments are there to get a team ready for the ensuing three (hopefully four) weeks of the tournament grind. Nine out of the last ten final fours have had at least one conference champion still alive. Also in the last decade, a team that wins their conference's regular season or tournament championship automatically became a strong favorite to win it all, and often has. Louisville of course did double duty last year as Big East regular season/tournament champion, and bested our beloved Wolverines in a helluva game.

Michigan can in no way be hurt by playing three extra games. It comes down to coaching, not superstition.

Here's why I think Michigan can move up to the one line if they're the last B1G team standing on Sunday:

  • Villanova got beat on a buzzer-beater against Seton Hall Thursday night, forfeiting any hold they had on a number one seed.
  • Syracuse lost in hilarious fashion to NC State in the ACC quarterfinals. Many had them sneaking into the final number one seed.
  • Wisconsin plays Michigan State, and let's face it, it would help Michigan immensely if the Spartans knock out the Badgers. Wiscy is notorious for stealing high seeds from other teams because they never lose late in the season.
  • Virginia is still alive in the ACC tournament, but lost on the road to Maryland, because if Maryland can't be in the ACC then NO ONE GETS ANYTHING.
  • North Carolina blew it against Pittsburgh Friday night. No, the Tar Heels weren't in contention for a top seed, but an early conference exit will shift around some of the other seeding.
  • Saint Louis got bounced from their conference tournament early; A lot of projections have them in the same region as Michigan, but if the seeding shifts, Michigan could avoid a dangerous foe.
  • Duke, like Michigan, appears to have a firm hold on a two seed, but winning the ACC tournament might cause the committee to feel generous. Generosity and Duke are bad for Michigan. Go, Not-Duke!
  • Kansas went down to Iowa State Thursday night, and prior to that, lost Joel Embiid to injury for a few weeks. They won't be awarded a one seed with that baggage.

Plenty to play for in Indianapolis this week, and Caris LeVert, Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan, Glenn Robinson III, Derrick Walton, and crew would be the first to admit that.

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