Record: 19-10 (9-7 Big Ten)
vs. RPI Top 25: 2-2
vs. RPI Top 50: 4-7
vs. RPI Top 100: 11-10
vs. RPI 101+: 8-0
As Michigan has rounded into form the past three weeks, so has its resume. The Wolverines have won five of their last six games, and their vanquished foes haven’t been nobodies either (except Rutgers of course). Four of those wins were against Purdue (RPI #20), Wisconsin (#32), Michigan State (#41), and Indiana (#95). That’s three RPI top-50 wins in three weeks when the Wolverines had just one the prior 13 weeks, and they’ll take any RPI top-100 wins they can get when at the Hall of Horrors. U-M could add another RPI top-50 win this week with a win at Northwestern — though the Wildcats (#50) would have to reenter the top 50 after such a loss — or if Illinois (#57) continues its late surge and sweeps MSU and Rutgers. Plus, Michigan wants to see Iowa (#94), Indiana (#95), and Furman (#97) cling to their top-100 status, especially the Hawkeyes as having no RPI sub-100 losses would be a clean look for U-M’s resume.
Bracketology and Seed Projection Roundup
Bracket Matrix (Feb. 27): #9 Seed
CBS Sports (Feb. 27): #9 Seed vs. Dayton (Midwest)
Crashing the Dance (Feb. 27): #8 Seed
ESPN (Feb. 27): #8 Seed vs. VCU (South)
Sporting News (Feb. 27): #8 Seed
Sports Illustrated (Feb. 26): #8 Seed vs. Arkansas (East)
Michigan is climbing up the seed ladder. In Bracket Matrix’s Monday night update, Michigan is a #9 seed and in all 125 brackets. However, 28 of the 84 brackets that were updated on Monday (33.3%) slotted Michigan as a #8 seed, while only 15 (17.9%) had U-M as a #10 seed. The Wolverines are firmly in the 8-9 seed range after their top-25 win against Purdue on Saturday and may have locked up an at-large bid, though they should add one more victory at Northwestern or Nebraska this week before they throw away the key. Nonetheless, they have moved themselves out of the bubble discussion for the moment, and, instead, the conversation should now be whether they can move towards a #7 seed and avoid a potential match-up with a #1 seed in the Round of 32.
Big Ten Breakdown
Minnesota (22-7, 10-6 B1G, RPI: 16): As January rolled into February, Minnesota seemed to be mired in one of its traditional second-half slumps, having lost five straight games to fall to 15-7 (3-6 B1G). However, the Gophers didn’t lose in the month of February and, seven straight wins later, have rocketed up the RPI ladder to #16. Not only are the Gophers a lock for the NCAA Tournament, they have the Big Ten’s best RPI. Though Purdue likely still will receive a higher seed, Minnesota’s resume and tournament status indicate that all programs should try game the RPI with its non-conference scheduling.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 5
Purdue (23-6, 12-4 B1G, RPI: 20): Purdue lost to Michigan this past weekend, but the Boilermakers have been a tournament lock for some time. The only question for them — other than whether they secure their first outright Big Ten title since 1996 — is if they can ensure that at least one Big Ten school is given a top-four seed in the field.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 4
Maryland (22-7, 10-6 B1G, RPI: 27): The Terrapins have dropped their last three games and five of their last seven after being swept at home by Minnesota and Iowa last week. The free fall should stop — at least momentarily — when they take on Rutgers on Tuesday night, but their outside shot at a top-four seed has dissipated altogether. Nonetheless, Maryland is not in danger of missing the tournament as they have four RPI top-50 and 14 RPI top-100 wins, though five such wins are against the RPI 91-100.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 7
Wisconsin (22-7, 11-5 B1G, RPI: 32): Speaking of free falls, Wisconsin is in the midst of one. The Badgers have lost four of their last five games, including each of their last three road contests (at Michigan, OSU, and MSU). Similar to Maryland, they are no longer in contention for a top-four seed, but, with 13 RPI top-100 wins, they are safely in the field. Now Wisconsin just hopes one last homestand will get it back on track.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 6
Michigan State (18-11, 10-6 B1G, RPI: 41): Currently, the Spartans sit comfortably in the field after winning five of their last seven games, with their most recent being a pivotal home victory against Wisconsin. They even moved into Crashing the Dance’s “Looking Good” group, which lists only teams that its model gives essentially a 100 percent chance of an at-large selection if today were Selection Sunday. However, Michigan State may not feel so comfortable after this next week with road dates against Illinois and Maryland on deck. Lose both of those, and the pressure is back on.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 10
Michigan (19-10, 9-7 B1G, RPI: 45): See above.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 9
Stepping on Toes (Just In)
Northwestern (20-9, 9-7 B1G, RPI: 50): After Northwestern won at Wisconsin, I tweeted something to the effect that it didn’t feel right that the Wildcats would punch their first ever ticket to the NCAA Tournament without them sweating it out with their fingers crossed on Selection Sunday. It looks like that image may end up materializing. Northwestern’s play has suffered greatly as of late as the Wildcats have lost five of their last seven games — none in more brutal and typical Northwestern fashion than permitting an and-one dunk to Thomas Bryant in the final seconds of what would be a one-point loss after Bryant’s game-winning free throw hit the back iron and still fell in. The Wildcats still have a small cushion between themselves and the cut-off, but they certainly aren’t feeling comfortable anymore, especially as they try to end their tournament drought And they won’t feel comfortable with hot Michigan and Big Ten-leading Purdue next.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 10
Stumbling (Work to Do)
Illinois (17-12, 7-9 B1G, RPI: 57): There have been fewer mid-major programs making their case for at-large bids this season, which has opened the door for high-major programs with unattractive records. One of those high-major programs knocking on said door is Illinois, who suddenly is in the bubble conversation after winning four of its last five games, including sweeping Northwestern. The Illini are now the fifth team out on Bracket Matrix (behind Rhode Island, Kansas State, Wake Forest, and TCU) and are even in Crashing the Dance’s and Sporting News’ most recent brackets. If Illinois can pick up a home win against Michigan State on Wednesday, the knocking will get louder.
Bracket Matrix Seed: Next Four Out
Ohio State (16-13, 6-10 B1G, RPI: 73): Ohio State is here only because there is an off chance that, if the Buckeyes sweep this week and make a run to the Big Ten Tournament final, they may sneak into the NCAA Tournament even if they don’t win the title. Maybe. What isn’t a maybe is that one loss before then erases such a chance.
Bracket Matrix Seed: N/A
Iowa (16-13, 8-8 B1G, RPI: 94): See Ohio State.
Bracket Matrix Seed: N/A
Indiana (16-13, 6-10 B1G, RPI: 95): See Ohio State and Iowa.
Bracket Matrix Seed: Receiving Votes (1 out of 125)
Tripped (Big Ten Tournament or Bust)
Penn State, Nebraska, Rutgers