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How Michigan Gets to the NCAA Tournament (hint: they probably don't)

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Please feel free to file under "pointlessly optimistic" but for a brief moment here we can all dream big. After Michigan's weird, flawed, but ultimately impressive victory at Penn State, the Wolverines sit at 14-10 (4-7 in conference), and currently sit at 59 in the RPI rankings. The remaining schedule:

Vs. Northwestern

Vs. Indiana

@ Illinois

@ Iowa

Vs. #14 Wisconsin

@ #25 Minnesota

Vs. Michigan State

Conventional wisdom would suggest that a 9-9 Big Ten record would likely be enough to put Michigan firmly on the bubble, with a chance for the Wolverines to state their case in the Big Ten Tournament. A 10-8 record, which would get the Wolverines to the historic benchmark of 20 wins, would likely send them to the NCAA's. So with the remaining schedule, the Wolverines have to win at least 5, and hopefully 6 of their remaining 7 games.

Can they do it? Ehhhh, probably not. Northwestern and Indiana are both RPI nightmares, but KenPom has them in the same tier as Michigan - Northwestern's 47th, Michigan is 55th, and Indiana is 67th. Neither of these games are gimmes, but it's not unreasonable to expect that Michigan can win in Ann Arbor against two similarly mediocre teams. After that, the road gets tougher. Michigan will have to win at Illinois and Iowa to have a reasonable shot at 9 conference wins. Far more than the games against Wisconsin and Minnesota - both in the AP top 25 - these next four games are crucial to the Wolverine's razor thin chances at the NCAA Tournament. Michigan has not gone on a 5 game winning streak since the beginning of the season when their opponents included various community college systems.

Should Michigan win the next 4 games, they've got Wisconsin at home, and Minnesota on the road before facing Michigan State for the finale. They will still have to win one of those three games to even be mentioned as a bubble team.

Can Michigan do it? Sure they can...if they play like they did for the last 6 minutes against Penn State for an entire game. However, over the course of the season we've seen too much "young Michigan" that takes too many bad 3's, dribbles pointlessly around the top of the key, and can't reasonably play defense. To put together a streak of wins in the Big Ten like they're going to have to is probably asking too much.