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Bracketology Roundup and Rooting Guide: March 10, 2017

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Michigan can make a case to be a 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament if certain results fall in its favor on Friday.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Illinois vs Michigan Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s Resume

Record: 21-11 (10-8 Big Ten)
RPI: 43
SOS: 33
Home: 15-3
Road: 3-8
Neutral: 3-0
vs. RPI Top 25: 2-2
vs. RPI Top 50: 4-7
vs. RPI Top 100: 11-11
vs. RPI 101+: 10-0

Michigan has been the subject of one of the biggest stories in college basketball during Championship Week. On Wednesday afternoon, the Wolverines boarded a plane that was set to fly them to Washington, D.C. for the Big Ten Tournament. However, as MLive’s Brendan Quinn reported in excellent detail, their plane never took off. Instead, as the plane raced down the runway in high-speed winds, the pilot suddenly slammed on the brakes, causing the plane to slide past the end of the runway, through a fence, and stop just a few hundred yards short of a ravine. Thankfully, none of the 109 passengers sustained serious injuries, and all evacuated the plane quickly and safely.

However, Michigan was still scheduled to tip off against Illinois 20 hours later and had to figure out how they were going to get to D.C. in time — if they still even wanted to go. After a team meeting, the players decided they still wanted to make the trip and compete in the Big Ten Tournament. So, without most of its equipment, including its official game uniforms, which remained in the cargo hold of the plane as the FAA conducted its investigation, Michigan departed Detroit at 7:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, landed in D.C. at 8:45 a.m., arrived at the Verizon Center at 10:40 a.m., and tipped off against the Illini in its practice uniforms at 12:28 p.m.. That’s all in less than five hours.

The result? Michigan played some of its best basketball of the season, “flying” out to a 31-11 lead in the first half before cruising towards a 75-55 win over the Fighting Illini.

The circumstances of this Michigan win should absolutely be noted here because they will not be noted on Michigan’s resume. The selection committee will not review the significance of this win or just how remarkable it was. Instead, when the committee evaluates the Wolverines’ resume on Sunday, all it will see is that U-M added another RPI top-100 win on March 9th and improved its record vs. the RPI top 100 to 11-11.

Therefore, it is important that Michigan continues to build upon its record against the RPI top 100, especially because Penn State (#99) and Furman (#100), which represent two of U-M’s wins, are on the verge of falling out. There’s a possibility that, if the Wolverines lose to Purdue on Friday, their record against the RPI top 100 could be 9-12.

That won’t help U-M’s seed, and unfortunately, neither will this week’s incredible story.

Bracketology and Seed Projection Roundup

Bracket Matrix (Mar. 9): #9 Seed (121 of 121 brackets)

CBS Sports (Mar. 9): #9 Seed vs. Dayton (Midwest)

Crashing the Dance (Mar. 9): #8 Seed

ESPN (Mar. 9): #9 Seed vs. Wichita State (East)

FOX Sports (Mar. 9): #8 Seed vs. Arkansas (East)

SB Nation (Mar. 9): #8 Seed vs. Wichita State (South)

Sports Illustrated (Mar. 9): #8 Seed vs. Dayton (West)

Sporting News (Mar. 9): #8 Seed

Disclaimer: though Bracket Matrix was updated Thursday night, most of the brackets it aggregated, including all of the ones listed hereinabove, were updated on Thursday morning prior to Michigan’s win over Illinois. Therefore, these brackets still show U-M as being firmly in the 8-9 seed range. However, when these brackets are updated on Friday morning after this column was drafted late Thursday evening, expect U-M to be firmly in the 8 seed range and peeking up at the 7 seeds. Why? Miami-FL (7 seed on Bracket Matrix), Oklahoma State (8 seed), and Virginia Tech (8 seed) all lost on Thursday. If Michigan can do what those teams could not and topple an RPI top-25 opponent by beating the Boilermakers, U-M may propel itself into the class of 7 seeds.

Michigan’s Rooting Guide (Mar. 10)

Michigan wants the bold team to win in each of the following games:

Purdue vs. MICHIGAN (12:00 p.m. ET | ESPN)

Rationale: Duh.

SMU vs. East Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET | ESPN2)

Rationale: Ranked #16 in RPI, SMU is Michigan’s best win of the season, particularly because U-M beat the Mustangs by 22 on a neutral court. Michigan wants the Mustangs to continue their ride — they have won 23 of their last 24 games — and win the American Athletic Tournament.

Dayton vs. Davidson (12:00 p.m. | NBCSN)

Rationale: Dayton is listed as a 7 seed on Bracket Matrix. With Michigan seeking to rise to a 7 seed, U-M wants the Flyers to pick up a bad loss and crash out of the A-10 Tournament early.

Minnesota vs. Michigan State (2:00 p.m. ET | ESPN)

Rationale: Michigan prefers that the teams it has beaten perform better than the teams which have beaten it because the selection committee favors quality wins more than quality losses. If the Spartans lose on Friday, there is a possibility that they will fall out of the RPI top 50 and potentially reduce the number of Michigan’s RPI top-50 wins to three. The Wolverines want MSU to avoid such a loss and cement itself in the top 50, and then hand MSU that loss on Saturday.

South Carolina vs. Alabama (3:00 p.m. ET | SECN)

Rationale: As of Thursday night, South Carolina is an 8 seed on Bracket Matrix and four spots ahead of Michigan on the seed ladder. Both the Wolverines and Gamecocks are shooting to be a 7 seed or higher, so it would be better for Michigan if South Carolina was knocked out early.

VCU vs. George Mason (6:00 p.m. ET | NBCSN)

Rationale: As of Thursday night, VCU is a 9 seed on Bracket Matrix and one spot behind Michigan. The Wolverines created some space with their win over Illinois, but if they want to optimize their chances at a 7 seed, they don’t want to be passed from behind by the Rams.

North Carolina Central vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore (6:00 p.m. ET | ESPN3)

Rationale: Michigan wants its non-conference opponents that are not contending for a similar seed as the Wolverines to perform well in their respective conference tournaments.

Wisconsin vs. Indiana (6:30 p.m. ET | BTN)

Rationale: This result will not have much impact on Michigan’s resume. Wisconsin will not jump into the RPI top 25 with a win or fall out of the RPI top 50 with a loss, and Indiana will not jump into the RPI top 50 with a win or fall out of the RPI top 100 with a loss. Therefore, this pick is being made solely on which team would be a better matchup for the Wolverines if they met one in the Big Ten Tournament final. That team clearly is Indiana, whom Michigan swept this year.

Villanova vs. Seton Hall (6:30 p.m. ET | FS1)

Rationale: Seton Hall was a 10 seed on Bracket Matrix before it beat fellow projected 10 seed Marquette on Thursday. If the Pirates tally a signature win by toppling Villanova, they will advance to the Big East Championship Game and maybe past Michigan on the seed ladder.

Iowa State vs. TCU (7:00 p.m. ET | ESPN2)

Rationale: If Michigan beats Purdue and advances to the Big Ten Tournament final, it likely will be in a position to secure a 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As of Thursday night, Iowa State is a 6 seed on Bracket Matrix, and a loss to TCU could make them susceptible to being passed.

Maryland vs. Northwestern (8:55 p.m. ET | BTN)

Rationale: Michigan is 0-1 against both of these teams, so there are no quality wins to be gained by this result. However, Northwestern is just outside the RPI top 50. If the Wildcats beat Maryland, they likely will move into the RPI top 50 and give Michigan another quality loss.

Arkansas vs. Ole Miss (9:00 p.m. ET | SECN)

Rationale: As of Thursday night, Arkansas was a 9 seed on Bracket Matrix and one spot ahead of Michigan on the seed ladder. Though the Wolverines likely leapfrogged over Arkansas after their win against Illinois, Arkansas could leapfrog them right back with a win and Michigan loss.

Oregon vs. California (9:00 p.m. ET | No TV)

Rationale: If Michigan is given an 8 or 9 seed on Selection Sunday, it wants to face the weakest possible 1 seed in the Round of 32. Oregon is ranked 16th on KenPom, well below the other 1-seed contenders not named UCLA. Michigan would rather oppose Oregon than, say, a Villanova or North Carolina, and, if the Ducks win the Pac-12 Tournament, they could snatch a 1 seed.

Creighton vs. Xavier (9:00 p.m. ET | FS1)

Rationale: Michigan’s rooting interest in this game will depend on whether it wins or loses on Friday. If the Wolverines beat Purdue, they will be in strong contention for a 7 seed. Therefore, they would want Creighton (a 7 seed on Bracket Matrix as of Thursday night) to lose and open up the door for them. However, if the Wolverines lose to Purdue, they likely will be in the 8-9 seed range. Therefore, they would want Xavier (an 11 seed on Bracket Matrix as of Thursday night, but will likely be a 10 seed on Friday morning) to lose, so XU cannot rise above them.

Arizona vs. UCLA (11:30 p.m. ET | ESPN)

Rationale: Michigan wants its non-conference opponents that are not contending for a similar seed as the Wolverines to perform well in their respective conference tournaments.

Big Ten Breakdown

Dancing (Lock)

Purdue (25-6, 14-4 B1G, RPI: 1)

Bracket Matrix Seed: 4

Minnesota (23-8, 11-7 B1G, RPI: 20)

Bracket Matrix Seed: 6

Maryland (24-7, 12-6 B1G, RPI: 24)

Bracket Matrix Seed: 6

Wisconsin (23-8, 12-6 B1G, RPI: 40)

Bracket Matrix Seed: 7

Michigan (21-11, 10-8 B1G, RPI: 43)

Bracket Matrix Seed: 9

Michigan State (19-13, 10-8 B1G, RPI: 49): With the win over Penn State, Michigan State now is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament.

Bracket Matrix Seed: 10

Northwestern (22-10, 10-8 B1G, RPI: 52): With the win over Rutgers, Northwestern now is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament.

Bracket Matrix Seed: 9

Strutting (Comfortable)

N/A

Stepping on Toes (Just In)

N/A

Stumbling (Work to Do)

Illinois (18-14, 8-10 B1G, RPI: 62): Illinois was on the wrong side of the bubble before it took the court against Michigan on Thursday. With the 20-point loss and no more games until Selection Sunday, the Fighting Illini are all but headed to the NIT.

Bracket Matrix Seed: First Four Out

Iowa (18-14, 10-8 B1G, RPI: 80): Iowa had been surging towards breaking into the NCAA Tournament bracket, but that came to a screeching halt on Thursday when Indiana ran them off the court. Like Illinois, Iowa was in the First Four Out in most brackets and needed to win to keep the dream alive. However, with the loss, it will be the NIT.

Bracket Matrix Seed: First Four Out

Tripped (Big Ten Tournament or Bust)

Ohio State, Indiana, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers