Record: 20-11 (10-8 Big Ten)
vs. RPI Top 25: 2-3
vs. RPI Top 50: 4-7
vs. RPI Top 100: 11-11
vs. RPI 101+: 9-0
It won’t be official until Sunday, but Michigan’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament?
There is no more doubt that Michigan’s resume is worthy of an at-large bid should the Wolverines need one. On Sunday, they added an RPI top-100 road win when they nuked Nebraska (#97), 93-57, with an offensive explosion. In doing so, they remained in the RPI top 50 and regained their 11th top-100 win after Furman (#103) slipped out due to a premature exit in the Southern Conference Tournament. Michigan could have added another RPI top-100 road win (borderline top-50) four days earlier at Northwestern (#54), but then the Hardwood Hail Mary happened. As a result, Michigan’s resume is nearly identical to what it was in the previous update last Tuesday. However, this resume is now a lock for the NCAA Tournament because U-M can only lose once more.
Congratulations, Michigan. You will be dancing for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Bracketology and Seed Projection Roundup
Bracket Matrix (Mar. 6): #9 Seed (125 of 125 brackets)
CBS Sports (Mar. 5): #9 Seed vs. Dayton (Midwest)
Crashing the Dance (Mar. 6): #8 Seed
ESPN (Mar. 6): #9 Seed vs. Miami-FL (East)
SB Nation (Mar. 6): #8 Seed vs. Wichita State (South)
Sports Illustrated (Mar. 6): #8 Seed vs. Dayton (Midwest)
With Michigan set to be in the NCAA Tournament, the main question is where in the field U-M will be. Currently, the Wolverines remain firmly in the 8-9 seed range after splitting last week’s slate. Of the 125 brackets that were aggregated in Bracket Matrix’s Monday night update, Michigan was an 8 or 9 seed in 114 (91.2%). This is where the loss to Northwestern hurt the Wolverines. A win in Evanston would have put them on the verge of breaking into the class of 7 seeds and avoiding a potential matchup with a 1 seed in the Round of 32. Instead, Michigan likely will need to win at least two games in the Big Ten Tournament (vs. #9 Illinois and #1 Purdue) to avoid such a predicament, and U-M may need another win depending on what happens elsewhere. On the other hand, a neutral-site loss to Illinois shouldn’t drop Michigan to a 10 seed. Unless U-M makes a run this weekend, U-M could face Goliath the weekend thereafter.
Michigan’s Rooting Guide (Mar. 7)
Michigan wants the bold team to win in each of the following games:
Boston College vs. Wake Forest (2:00 p.m. ET | ESPN2)
Rationale: Wake Forest is a bubble team and the fifth team in on Bracket Matrix as an 11 seed. If Michigan wants to make a push for a 7 seed, it doesn’t want anyone passing them from behind.
St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga (9:00 p.m. ET | ESPN)
Rationale: This is more a matter of preference. There is a likelihood that Michigan will be an 8 or 9 seed, which means that attention must be paid to the possible 1 seeds U-M could face in the Round of 32. There is a battle for the 1 seed in the West region between Gonzaga and Oregon. Though some may prefer that Michigan face Gonzaga because the Bulldogs played a softer, mid-major schedule, the Bulldogs still eviscerated their conference and are the top-ranked team on KenPom. Oregon, on the other hand, is 17th on KenPom and a more favorable matchup for Michigan. If Gonzaga loses tonight, Oregon becomes the leader for the 1 seed in the West.
Big Ten Breakdown
Purdue (25-6, 14-4 B1G, RPI: 18): Purdue wrapped up its first outright Big Ten championship since 1996 with wins over rival Indiana and at Northwestern. Those were two nice wins to add to the resume, which is one reason why the Boilermakers jumped back into the RPI lead among Big Ten schools. Nonetheless, Purdue still is hanging on by a thread as a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. Accordingly, the Boilermakers probably need to make a run to the Big Ten Tournament final to secure such a seed.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 4
Minnesota (23-8, 11-7 B1G, RPI: 20): Minnesota’s eight-game winning streak came to a halt with a 17-point loss to Wisconsin in Madison on Sunday. The Gophers would have cemented a top-five seed if they could have extended the streak to nine wins, but now they’re jockeying for that position instead. This is where they may have preferred being the 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and playing an extra game to boost their resume. Instead, their first Big Ten Tournament game will be in the quarterfinals and likely against Michigan State, who swept them. Fall to 0-3 vs. MSU and fall to a 6 seed.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 6
Maryland (24-7, 12-6 B1G, RPI: 24): After losing three straight and five of its last seven games, Maryland rebounded in the final week of the regular season. The Terps smoked Rutgers and eked one out against Michigan State. Accordingly, they’re flirting with a 6 or 7 seed, making the Big Ten Tournament crucial because their best chance to advance to the Sweet 16 is to avoid the 1 and 2 seeds until the second weekend.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 6
Wisconsin (23-8, 12-6 B1G, RPI: 38): The bleeding didn’t stop for Wisconsin when Iowa stunned them with a game-winner in the final seconds at the Kohl Center on Thursday, but the Badgers finally put pressure on the wound with the win over Minnesota. Like Maryland, they would prefer to propel back into the 6 seed range and avoid any 1 or 2 seeds until the Sweet 16. And, because they’re lower on the seed ladder than Maryland, they may need to beat Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament semis to do so.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 7
Michigan (20-11, 10-8 B1G, RPI: 46): See above.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 9
Michigan State (18-13, 10-8 B1G, RPI: 49): With five RPI top-50 wins, 11 RPI top-100 wins, and only one really bad loss (against #140 Northeastern), Michigan State probably is safely in the NCAA Tournament field despite having 13 losses on its resume. However, the Spartans had an opportunity to lock up their spot with road games at Illinois and Maryland last week, but a pair of three-point losses may cause a few beads of sweat to trickle down their forehead throughot this week, especially if they lose to the winner of Penn State-Nebraska in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 10
Northwestern (21-10, 10-8 B1G, RPI: 54): The Hardwood Hail Mary will go down as the most iconic play in Northwestern basketball history as it most likely will be what punched the Wildcats’ first ever ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Kudos to the Wildcats for breaking the curse, though one Big Ten Tournament win would not hurt them.
Bracket Matrix Seed: 9
Stepping on Toes (Just In)
Stumbling (Work to Do)
Illinois (18-13, 8-10 B1G, RPI: 58): Want to know how you ruin a late-season surge towards cracking the NCAA Tournament field? Lose to Rutgers. The Illini were on their way and had in fact cross the threshold. After edging Michigan State on Wednesday to win their fourth straight game, they had broken into the First Four In in the majority of brackets. And they proceeded to fall right back out in what an absolutely crushing blow to their resume. Now Illinois is the third team out on Bracket Matrix and may need two Big Ten Tournament wins to reenter the bracket as the bubble shrinks this week. The issue, though? Those two wins would have to come against Michigan and Purdue, which finished the Big Ten regular season with the two best efficiency margins.
Bracket Matrix Seed: First Four Out
Iowa (18-13, 10-8 B1G, RPI: 72): Iowa, Ohio State, and Indiana were essentially grouped together last week, and the belief was that their only chance at an at-large bid was to sweep the week and then battle to the Big Ten Tournament final. Only one of those three teams went undefeated last week, and that team was Iowa, whose RPI shot up from #94 to #72 thanks in large part to a road win at Wisconsin. Suddenly, the Hawkeyes are popping up in some brackets and right behind Illinois in the Bracket Matrix. If they beat Indiana, Wisconsin, and what will likely be Maryland, that would give them 12 RPI top-100 and six RPI top-50 wins. That would do the trick for Iowa.
Bracket Matrix Seed: First Four Out
Tripped (Big Ten Tournament or Bust)
Ohio State, Indiana, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers