clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why Michigan's tournament resume is better than MSU's

The NCAA Tournament is right around the corner, seeding is on the line.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Michigan State vs Michigan Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Wolverines, Big Ten Champions.

That’s not something you would’ve thought in November when the Wolverines got obliterated by the North Carolina in Chapel Hill, or when they did battle with the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus in December, blowing a huge lead and losing by nine. Oh, how times have changed.

Michigan is now one of the hottest teams in the nation, drawing love from the media pundits across all networks and platforms. The Wolverines have now put themselves in prime position for an almost guaranteed 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the 2 seed isn’t out of reach.

Who’s their main competition for that coveted 2 seed? None other than the Wolverines biggest basketball rival, Michigan State. The debate has been fluid between media and fans alike… it’s time we settled it. Here’s why Michigan’s resume is better.

Quadrant Wins & What They Mean:

To first understand who’s resume is best we need to learn the new terminology in doing so. Starting this season the NCAA decided to make some changes to how they determined strength of wins, and the weakness of losses. They introduced a new term called ‘Quadrants’. As confusing as that may sound at first, it’s really not hard to understand.

Allow me to explain it for you:

Quadrant One: Home vs an RPI* 1-30 team, neutral site vs 1-50, or on the road vs any 1-75 (elite win, above average loss)

Quadrant Two: Home vs RPI 31-75, neutral-site vs 51-100, or on the road vs 76-135 (above average win, average loss)

Quadrant Three: Home vs RPI 76-160, neutral site 101-200, or on the road vs 136-240 (average win, below average loss)

Quadrant Four: Home vs RPI 161+, neutral site vs 201+, on the road vs 241+ (below average win, unacceptable loss)

So what does all this mean? You want the most Quadrant One wins as possible on your schedule. The lower ranked quadrant victory, the less it benefits you. The same goes for losses, the better the quadrant, the less that loss hurts.

Now that we understand what each quadrant represents, how they’re valued, and what they mean, let’s look at how Michigan’s resume in full matches up to MSU’s.

*RPI stands for Rating Power Index and is a formula used used in collegiate basketball to weigh and decide the true rankings of each team.

Michigan’s Quadrant Victories vs Michigan State’s:

To make this as easy as possible, let’s go through these one by one and then at the end, decide who had the best wins and the not-so-worst losses. Keep in mind the last subheading when considering the resumes here and how they factor into the final product.

Quadrant One:

Michigan- 6 wins & 6 losses

Michigan State- 2 wins & 4 losses

Quadrant Two:

Michigan- 6 wins & 1 losses

Michigan State- 5 wins & 0 losses

Quadrant Three:

Michigan- 6 wins & 0 losses

Michigan State- 7 wins & 0 losses

Quadrant Four:

Michigan- 10 wins & 0 losses

Michigan State- 14 wins & 0 losses

Despite the Spartans being ranked higher than the Wolverines for the entire season, Michigan holds a sizable advantage in Quadrant One victories which could be the determining factor in destination, seeding and more.

What's most impressive is not only that margin of Quadrant One wins that the Wolverines have over MSU, it's the fact that they have had to play Ohio State and Purdue both twice in regular season play, something that the Spartans had to do just once. You can also deduct from the Quadrant Four totals that Michigan State had an easier schedule with their 14 wins to Michigan's 10.

We now understand what quadrants are, what they mean, how they relate to Michigan and Michigan State, and who holds the advantage in that regard. Despite the 7 total losses (only 1 of which wasn't in quadrant 1), the Wolverines have played the tougher schedule out of the two, they have beaten the better teams. Those two points must be factored in.

Maybe that’s enough evidence for you, but not for me.

Offensive & Defensive Efficiency:

Having two of maybe the 5-10 best coaches in the country both in not only the same conference, but in the same state for that matter makes for an interesting comparison.

While John Beilein has proven that he’s an elite offensive mind and developer, Tom Izzo has been one of the best defensive coaches in all of college ball. With these two great coaches who are so-called experts in their respective specialties, how do both teams stack up efficiency wise on either side of the ball? Let's take a look at the advanced statistical data via KenPom*.

Defense. Michigan ranks 6th in the country in total adjusted defensive efficiency, while Michigan State ranks one spot behind at 7th. If you take out advanced analytics such as KenPom, the Wolverines still rank 11 spots higher than the Spartans in total points allowed on D and have played two more games than Michigan State has as well. On average — according to KenPom — the offenses Michigan has had to defend rank 38 spots higher than what MSU is facing, making this elite defense that much more accomplished.

Offense. Here's where the Spartans can pose a threat. Michigan State is ranked at a fantastic 10th overall in adjusted offensive efficiency, Michigan ranks at 30th. That is by the numbers the worst statistical year on offense for Beilein and company since the 2014-15 season when the Wolverines were plagued by injuries and wound up missing the NCAA tournament. Let's not take anything away from what Tom Izzo has done this season in East Lansing. His offense has been rolling behind shining star Jaren Jackson and Cassious Winston — outside of his two match-ups against Zavier Simpson and Michigan this season.

The issue (if you even want to call it that) for Michigan, though, has been in large part due to their commitment on the defensive end, not giving up possessions just so they can push the ball on offense and by not crashing the boards on their own shots. By not doing those things — while it has hampered their offense — has made them one of the best defensive teams from top to bottom in the nation.

*KenPom is an advanced analytical service that is referenced frequently by those in the media because it provides a more clear rating by adjusting and accounting for things that a pure number would not.


There's a lot on the line come selection Sunday. Both teams are guaranteed in with MSU receiving their auto-bid to the big dance via their regular season conference title, and U-M punching their ticket with the conference tournament title.

What's up for grabs is the 2 seed, oh the valuable 2 seed. Not only does securing that seeding provide an easier way to the Sweet 16 and beyond, but it would give the recipient an opportunity — a very good one — to play a portion of the tournament in Detroit at Little Caesars Arena. Both teams have a strong argument to make for which has the best resume, the best track record this season.

Leading in the majority of the categories listed is too hard to ignore and gives Michigan the clearly better resume, despite having more losses on the year. Regardless as to whether the committee feels the same way or not, the fact remains that as hot as this team is right now and as much momentum as they're carrying with them, you can be guaranteed that no one wants to play the Michigan Wolverines this March.