Michigan just barely lost out on a number one seed, losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament final and giving Virginia the edge in seeding.
Given the way things worked out, Michigan may have gotten a little more screwed than many of us wanted to imagine going into the tournament. The Midwest region doesn't look like a walk in the park compared to some. There are a number of worrisome matchups on the horizon. We will deal with Wofford more in depth later in the week, but for now let's look at the house of horrors that the Midwest region will be down the road.
- Seven Seed Texas (23-10, 11-7 Big 12)
The Longhorns aren't among the top Big 12 teams out there, but will still be a stiff challenge. For one, Texas has played the top of the Big 12 well, splitting its series against Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State 1-1 in conference this year. Those wins all came at home.
Texas is a faster paced team (68 possessions per game, 83rd nationally, that relies heavily on offensive rebounding (6th in OR% nationally) and scoring inside and at the line (just 20% of Texas's points come from three point shots).
Outlook against Michigan: Athletic team that crashes boards could be an issue. Fear level 5/10.
- Tenth Seed Arizona State (21-11, 10-8 Pac 12)
Arizona State's resume starts nearly in the same place Michigan's could have, had the Wolverines been able to finish off Arizona in December. The Sun Devils did outlast the Wildcats in two overtimes. Add that to Kenpom top-50 wins against Oregon, Utah, and Stanford, and Arizona State has a pretty good resume for a Pac 12 team, especially considering that Arizona State didn't suffer any egregious upsets.
The Sun Devils are long, and naturally this leads to good shooting percentage defense numbers all across the team (46th in eFG% allowed, 44th nationally). Offensively, Arizona State likes to shoot threes, and does so at a high level — four players have over 50 3PA and are near 40% on them for the year.
Outlook against Michigan: A long team that can affect shots while making a lot of threes on the other end. Fear level 6/10.
- Three Seed Duke (26-8, 13-5 ACC)
Michigan is already familiar with Duke, having played the Blue Devils in Cameron in a game that was not so much competitive as it was a sysiphean effort by Caris LeVert to keep things close. Nik Stauskas was coming off a tweaked ankle in that game, which could explain his offensive disappearing act. Also, Glenn Robinson III was no where to be found, and Michigan needed a solid game from Mitch McGary to keep the final score within the realm of respectable.
Duke is one of two teams with a more efficient offense than Michigan, and the Blue Devils might also have the most talented player in the country in Jabari Parker. Opposite Parker, Michigan will also have to contend with Rodney Hood, and last time these teams met, Quinn Cook had 24 points and nine assists.
Outlook against Michigan: An offensive juggernaut with enough defense to make Michigan work for buckets is exactly what I don't want to see Michigan matched up against. Fear level: 9/10.
- Six Seed UMass (24-8, 10-6 A10)
In terms of games with a direct connection to Michigan, UMass has one close win over Nebraska and a loss to Florida State on its resume. On top of that, wins over Clemson, St. Joseph's, VCU, and George Washington are all Kenpom top-50 wins.
UMass plays with a short rotation — seven guys get over 50% of available minutes, and five of them are upperclassmen — and bases its defense around a defense of the three point line. UMass also plays with the 14th fastest tempo in the nation at 71 possessions per game.
Outlook against Michigan: A fast-paced team that doesn't force turnovers at a high rate and hangs its hat on three point defense seems exploitable. Fear level 3/10.
- 11th Seed* Iowa (20-13. 9-9 Big Ten)
Iowa has been in a tailspin as of late, but the Hawkeyes are still a scary team. For one, Iowa is one of only two double-digit seeded teams in the Kenpom top-30 right now. The Hawkeyes also feature an offense just one spot lower than Michigan's in terms of efficiency ratings.
Of course, Iowa can't figure out how to win a game as of late, losing six of its last seven and doing so in increasingly painful fashion. However, the Hawkeyes have the talent and depth to run the kind of wide open, high paced system that can work in the tournament, especially against teams that aren't ready for it.
Outlook against Michigan: Iowa already has one win against Michigan this year, and if the Hawkeyes make it to the second weekend, it'll mean that Iowa had a chance to figure some things out. Fear level: 7/10.
-11th Seed* Tennessee (21-12, 11-7 SEC)
Yes, you are looking at an 11th seeded, play-in game bound SEC team that still happens to be in Kenpom's top-15. Numbers are weird sometimes, yo. On the season Tennessee has three losses to Florida and one to Kentucky. Its best wins are against Virginia, LSU, and Xavier.
Tennessee is a strong rebounding team, currently sitting 5th in OR% and 20th in DR%. Tennessee doesn't play fast and doesn't force or give up many turnovers. What the Volunteers do is control the game with possessions and let stellar offensive rebounding provide the bump the team needs on offense.
Outlook against Michigan: Tennessee looks better on paper than Iowa, but I'm more scared of the Hawkeyes. Fear level 6/10.
*(the world's toughest play-in game)
Well? Considering that these are teams Michigan could face in the second and third round of the NCAA tournament, you have to figure that the Wolverines got a little screwed in seeding for the tourney. Losing out on the number one seed not only pushed Michigan down a line, but it ended up setting the Wolverines up for a hellish region. The bright side is that Michigan still has favorable placements in Milwaukee and Indianapolis for the first two weekends, so some sort of home court advantage is there to help.
We will have more later in the week looking at who Michigan might see if it makes it to the regional final.