The college football season has come to a close as Alabama has won its bazillionth national championship -- a rough estimate -- under Nick Saban, but now the focus turns to college basketball. The NCAA Tournament begins in a little over two months, so let's see where the Wolverines stand in the postseason picture.
Record: 13-4 (3-1 B1G)
vs. RPI Top 25: 1-2
vs. RPI Top 50: 2-3
vs. RPI Top 100: 4-4
Michigan's RPI rocketed 12 spots from #47 to #35 after the Wolverines obtained their first signature victory of the season -- a 70-67 win over Maryland on Tuesday. The Terrapins are #15 in RPI, so this gave the Wolverines their first surefire top-25 win. Another win that continues to look sneaky good is the one versus Texas at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Despite a bad road loss to TCU, the Longhorns are at #27 in RPI thanks to an overtime win against Iowa State on Tuesday. Two top-30 wins and no bad losses will buoy Michigan's resume. An eye also should be kept on Illinois and PSU, who are #97 and #100 in RPI, respectively. If they can stay above that benchmark, it'll benefit Michigan.
Bracketology and Seed Projection Roundup
Bracket Matrix (Jan. 11): #9 Seed
Crashing the Dance (Jan. 13): #6 Seed
RealTime RPI (Jan. 13): #9 Seed vs. George Washington (West)
SB Nation (Jan. 12): #8 Seed vs. Monmouth (West)
CBS Sports (Jan. 13): #9 vs. Texas Tech (East)
ESPN (Jan. 9): First Four In
Easy Bubble Solver* (Jan. 11): #8 Seed
TeamRankings* (Jan. 13): #7 Seed
*Based on projected resumes in March, not current resumes.
Many bracketologies and seed projections are updated early in the week on Monday and Tuesday, so not all of the ones above reflect Michigan's most recent win over Maryland. As a result, projections for Michigan's spot in the NCAA Tournament are all over the place. Those that have updated their brackets have Michigan anywhere from a #6 seed (Crashing the Dance) to a #9 seed (RealTime RPI and CBS Sports). It should be noted that CBS Sports had U-M as its second team out until Wednesday when it bumped U-M up to that #9 seed. That is a substantial leap, indicating that Michigan might still be on the bubble but doesn't have to sweat for the moment. Also, the seeds based on Michigan's projected resume rather than its current like U-M to continue to climb up the ladder.
Big Ten Breakdown
Michigan State (16-1, RPI: 7): The Spartans crushed Illinois and Penn State last week to add two RPI top-100 wins. That gives Michigan State nine for the season, which is the most in the nation. Add in that five of those wins are against the RPI top 50, including one against #2 Kansas on a neutral site, and Michigan State's in line for a top-line seed.
Maryland (15-2, RPI: 15): Most brackets have Maryland as a #2 or #3 seed, but some dropped the Terrapins to #4 (CBS Sports) or #5 (Crashing the Dance) after the loss to Michigan. This seems surprising given that Maryland is 15-2 and is 15th in RPI. But what's weighing the Terps down is that the best RPI team they've beaten is #79 UConn.
Iowa (12-3, RPI: 16): Iowa basically is a consensus #4 seed, but the Hawkeyes will have an opportunity to make a move up the ladder tonight when they head to East Lansing. Iowa will seek to sweep Michigan State after taking Round 1 in Iowa City in its Big Ten opener. But the Spartans didn't have Denzel Valentine in that one. They will tonight.
Purdue (15-3, RPI: 31): Purdue's stunning road loss to Illinois on Sunday has caused the Boilermakers to drop out of a "lock" position. They're a #5 seed in many projected fields, but they're a #6 on CBS Sports and a #7 on RealTime RPI. The Boilermakers have been sliding lately, losing three times in a six-game span before a win over PSU last night.
Bubbling (Just In)
Michigan (13-4, RPI: 35): The Maryland win will start to push Michigan into "comfortable" territory, but, as a #8 or #9 seed, U-M isn't there yet. However, the Wolverines definitely will break through if they can upset the Hawkeyes on Sunday.
Indiana (14-3, RPI: 55): Indiana added just its second RPI top-100 win when IU roasted Ohio State by 25 points at Assembly Hall on Sunday. Accordingly, the Hoosiers have nudged forward to the right side of the bubble, earning #9 seeds in most of the brackets. However, Indiana won't have many opportunities to improve its RPI in the coming weeks. The highest-ranked team that IU will face in its next five games is #97 Illinois.
Stepping on Toes (Work Left to Do)
Ohio State (12-6, RPI: 62): After losing four straight games earlier in the season, Ohio State has bounced back with eight wins in its last nine games, including three against the RPI top 100. With a respectable record and a strong strength of schedule (22nd), the Buckeyes find themselves just outside the bubble, usually in the "next four out." They can find themselves on the right side of the bubble soon, though, depending on how they perform in their next two games: on the road against #15 Maryland and #31 Purdue.
Illinois (9-8, RPI: 97): With one marquee win against Purdue, the Illini's postseason hopes have been revived to an extent. Their RPI (#97) and KenPom (#95) have skied back into the top 100. The problem, though, is that their RPI is supported by a stiff strength of schedule (24th), and that number is about to take a dive. Only five of Illinois' remaining 14 games are against teams with an RPI better than 100th, and only two are against teams in the top 50. There won't be many chances for Illinois to earn more key wins. Thus, Illinois essentially can't afford many more losses if it want to surprise folks.
Northwestern (15-3, RPI: 103): Northwestern is 15-3 but still doesn't own an RPI top-100 win. The Wildcats had their best opportunity last week when they hosted #62 Ohio State, but they fell short by nine points. They should start picking up some of those wins soon as they're projected to be 22-9 (10-8 B1G). However, because Northwestern's SOS is so soft, that likely won't be enough wins to be on the right side of the bubble. Therefore, not only must Northwestern beat Penn State at home on Saturday, they need to pick off one or two of Maryland, Indiana, Michigan State, and Iowa immediately thereafter.
Tripping (Dropping Out)
Penn State (10-8, RPI: 100): Penn State has a top-100 RPI, but it's about to get ugly. Not only have the Lions lost their last two games, they'll be the dog in each of their next eight.
Wisconsin (9-9, RPI: 111): Wisconsin may not be a bad team (#61 on KenPom), but the Badgers keep dropping close games. They're 1-4 in the conference, and all four of those losses have been by no more than six points. At some point, Wisconsin needs to start winning those games. And, if UW can't upset MSU on Sunday, the hill will be too steep.
Nebraska, Minnesota, and Rutgers: Their RPI ranks are 190th or worse.