1. Kam Chatman's shot was the difference.
Kam Chatman's last-second corner three, which fell from the heavens and into the bottom of the bucket to beat Indiana, sent Michigan to the NCAA Tournament. Plain and simple. Most projected that Michigan was just out of the field before it took the Bankers Life Fieldhouse floor to battle the Hoosiers. Two days later, the selection committee revealed that Michigan was the third-to-last at-large team to make it. The Wolverines don't make that leap unless they add an RPI top-25 win against Indiana on a neutral site. The selection committee chair, Joe Castiglione, even specifically referred to that victory when he was asked after the bracket had been unveiled why Michigan made the cut rather than other bubble teams. The win still was fresh in the committee's minds, and the win likely doesn't happen if Chatman's didn't hit only his eighth three of the year.
2. Michigan's top-50 wins prevailed over its lack of top-100 wins.
The burning question with regards to Michigan's candidacy as an at-large team was whether the selection committee would value the Wolverines' four signature wins and no bad losses over the absence of any other quality wins. The answer: yes. When Joe Castiglione made his media rounds after the Selection Show to explain the committee's decisions, he repeatedly mentioned the number of RPI top-50 wins that bubble teams did and did not have. He didn't mention the records that bubble teams had against RPI top-50 competition. Just the number of wins. And, when you look at the bubble teams that did and didn't make the cut, it becomes apparent how much of an impact the metric had.
|Bubble Teams in the Field||Number of RPI Top-50 Wins|
|Bubble Teams Out of the Field||Number of RPI Top-50 Wins|
|San Diego State||1|
It's not a perfect cut -- Vanderbilt's inclusion remains to be puzzling for a variety of reasons -- but the committee generally preferred the teams with more RPI top-50 wins.
This sent a message to the mid-major programs to screw off. High-major schools always will have more chances to play RPI top-50 competition and will host a fair share of those games. On the other hand, the mid-majors are stuck trying to schedule those games for the non-conference slate and usually are forced to play them on neutral sites or in hostile venues. This gives a team like Michigan, which was 4-11 against RPI top-50 teams, a decisive advantage. Each of St. Bonaventure, St. Mary's, Monmouth, and Valparaiso had at least a .500 record against RPI top-50 teams, but, together, they played a total of 13 such games. If those mid-majors had the opportunity to play 15 games against top-50 competition like Michigan, maybe they would have had more than four signature wins.
But they didn't get that chance, and Michigan ultimately benefited from it.
3. Michigan has to like its First Four and first-round draws.
The path is set for Michigan to make a little bit of noise as a #11 seed.
To do so, Michigan first needs to beat Tulsa in its First Four contest. Of the other three play-in participants, Tulsa is the best match-up for Michigan. While Wichita State and Vanderbilt are #12 and #27 on KenPom, respectively, Tulsa is #58 on KenPom. Further, the Golden Hurricane may be the oldest team in the nation with a rotation that features seven seniors and a junior, but it's not a team that should exploit Michigan's weaknesses. Offensively, Tulsa doesn't shoot the ball well from the outside or grab many offensive rebounds. They also rely on getting to the free-throw line, which could be a problem against a Michigan team that rarely fouls. Defensively, their strength is their ability to force turnovers, while they have a problem locking down the three-point line. The Wolverines are one of the best at taking care of the ball and shooting from downtown. Michigan will be a small favorite, but the profiles suggest a bigger win for the good guys.
If Michigan beats Tulsa, it will face #6 seed Notre Dame in the first round of the East region. The Fighting Irish are the worst of four #6 seeds, ranking 39th on KenPom, while Wichita State and Vanderbilt will duel for the right to challenge Arizona, who is the best of the four #6 seeds at 16th on KenPom. That's a lucky break. Michigan would be an underdog but not a large one. And it certainly doesn't hurt that the Wolverines would be taking the court against a team that is mostly offense (#10 in adj. efficiency) and little defense (#172 in adj. efficiency). It's likely that such a game would be a full-on shootout.
4. However, don't pencil Michigan in for a Sweet 16 run.
Michigan would not have a favorable second-round draw if it gets past Tulsa and Notre Dame. The Wolverines would square off against #3 seed West Virginia, who is sixth on KenPom, or #14 seed Stephen F. Austin, who is 23 spots ahead of them on KenPom (#33). The comparison that many will make is that both of these teams are similar to the VCU outfit that Michigan walloped by 25 points in the second round in 2013. The Rams led the nation in defensive turnover rate due to its HAVOC press that season. Stephen F. Austin and West Virginia? They are first and second in that category, respectively, this season. However, though Michigan is excellent at holding onto the basketball, this is not that Michigan team, and Trey Burke won't be on the court. Further, the Mountaineers are an extremely physical team -- one that is first in offensive rebounding, seventh in in free-throw rate, and last in defensive free-throw rate -- and WVU could wear down the shorthanded Wolverines that'd be playing their third tournament game in five days.
5. Whoever leaked the bracket is the hero we deserve.
Look, the decision to extend the Selection Show from an hour to two hours is understandable. The NCAA and CBS know that all eyes will be tuned in to learn which teams made the field and how to fill out their brackets. So why not take advantage by increasing ratings and ad buys? However, if you're going to drag the process out over two hours, you need to be able to use that time effectively to keep viewers content and entertained, and the Selection Show failed in almost every regard. It took 20 minutes before the first region was revealed. When the first region finally was revealed, the show then devoted time to let Charles Barkley, an NBA analyst who probably can count on his fingers the number of college basketball games he watched this season, make his picks for that region before the public knew the rest of the field. Barkley tried to make those picks on a touch screen that he didn't know how to operate. It was a total disaster.
About 40 minutes in, college basketball media and fans on Twitter hit their breaking point. And it was right about then when a leaked bracket surfaced on the social media site. People were slightly skeptical at first until they realized that the bracket correctly had every team in the 1.5 regions that had been announced thus far. Of course, the bracket spread like wildfire as media members and fans were thrilled that they no longer had to endure the abomination transpiring on their televisions if they didn't want to.
It was karmic justice.
However, despite all the negative feedback that the NCAA and CBS are sure to get from this mess, it likely won't cause them to reduce the length of the Selection Show back to one hour. They'll be determined to figure out who leaked the bracket and take further steps to prevent it from happening again. They know that the public will watch for all two hours next year because we will still need to know who's in the bracket immediately.
We'll be the suckers, but, at least this year, the leak saved us from 120 minutes of misery.