Well that Wisconsin finish makes for an entertaining 24 hour watch of fallout for this team. However, this post has always been purely about the metrics driving this team either into the tournament or out of the tournament. So besides this one note I won’t be adding anything extra to the "what ifs" in play towards this team’s chances. The one thing I will say, if Michigan were to suspend Coach Howard for the remainder of the season I would not be surprised to see a Michigan team that is just barely sitting on the right side of the cut line get passed over by the committee. When it gets down to the final 4 teams really they have the final say and can make that call based off of whatever metrics they see fit to use.
Anyways, let’s get to the good stuff starting with the resume as of 2/21/2022:
The first thing I want to point out here and the thing that fans should be aware of is Michigan’s NET ranking last week at 35. There have been multiple times where I have tried to explain how a Quad 1 win is more meaningful than a Quad 1 loss. Well that is about as well as I could manage to show it. Michigan went 1-1 this past week. Michigan finished better off than where they were before last week started. Adding a Quad 1 win will always bolster a team’s resume whereas losing a Quad 1 game will be seen as a missed opportunity. Some teams, like Michigan, are lucky enough to have multiple opportunities, while others only get a few.
So on to the main focus of today’s coverage and that is the bubble tipping point. These 'team numbers' are all well and good but what do any of them actually mean? Well the NET rankings haven’t been around for very long and unfortunately the 2019-2020 season didn’t have an NCAA tournament so our history with these metrics is still relatively new. But we can look at last year as a data point. Last year two things stand out as important information for this year:
1. Every team with a NET ranking above 41 was selected2. No team with a NET ranking below 72 was selected
So if we count on that data as a base for determining entrance into the dance, it would be fair to say that somewhere around the mid 30s is the definitely in line whereas somewhere around the late 70s is the definitely out line.
Alright now for the next piece of the puzzle. When I look at the bubble there seems to be 20 spots left that a number of teams are fighting over. Every team in this section is riding on that precarious position of either just above that NET 35 or wavering in the middling numbers between 40-70.
Here are the teams currently, questionably IN:
You’ll notice that the only current outlier is Rutgers with a NET of 80 and yet still hanging around on the right side of the cut line. The other big takeaway from this group is a few things really.
4 of the teams are from the Big 10
4 of the teams are from the MWC
3 of the teams are from the ACC
What that means is that it seems extremely unlikely for things to stay the way they are. More than likely a team will start to fall off. Teams like MSU and Indiana haven’t won a Quad 1 game in over a month. MSU has a very daunting schedule the rest of the way and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they didn’t win another game until a home date with Maryland. Indiana on the other hand has a few more easy games left, but that means they need to win those and pull out at least one more Quad 1 win. SDSU plays Boise and Wyoming, Boise plays SDSU and Col State, and well you get the picture while the ACC hosts a nightmare of games you don’t want to lose.
In other words no one in this group of, currently in teams, is likely to finish the season unblemished. Now you may have noticed that I only listed 19 teams. The reason for that is I honestly don’t know who I would put as the 20th team. This next group are the teams currently fighting for that last spot:
Again a quick look will show that none of these teams have a NET ranking in that 35 under mark, they all have decent wins, and they all have some bad losses. Basically this is where the committee is splitting hairs on that last spot. You could definitely switch around one or two from the previous group, but this looks right to my eyes.
And finally one last thing we have to touch on. You may have noticed Murray State listed in the previous group and said, "Wait won’t they earn an auto bid?" And you would be correct in thinking that. Actually, not only would Murray State win an auto bid but it is extremely likely one of the listed MWV teams wins their auto bid as well. So that would theoretically free up 2 bids at best and at worst keep things as they are. Outside of those two teams there are a few others in a curious spot. These teams sometimes find life on the bubble in a few brackets, but the tricky thing with them is that if they lose, and they would have to lose when not receiving an auto bid, that loss would most likely be considered a "bad" loss. Does the committee go searching for a few more mid majors? That is always the question with this group of curious cases:
Again none of these teams currently reside in the under 35 club and more importantly if they were to lose would most likely take a pretty sizable tumble down the rankings.
So let’s bring this all back to Michigan and their chances at making the tournament. Well first and foremost as I have said since I started doing this back in January the most important game that Michigan can’t afford to lose is their match-up with Rutgers this Wednesday night. Unfortunately, it seems extremely likely they will be without their coach and probably without Moussa. Still this team is capable of getting the win against Rutgers in a game that will go a long way in deciding whether or not Michigan deserves a spot in the field of 68.
Next we can take a look at a pretty normal trend that is happening each week with Michigan’s profile. Michigan beat Iowa and jumped from NET 35 to NET 28/29. Michigan lost to Wisconsin and went from NET 29 to NET 34. A win over Rutgers, a Quad 2 game, would probably push Michigan up 2-3 spots. A loss would drop them 7-9 spots. So quickly we can see that a win has them around 30 NET, almost a guarantee to make the tourney, and a loss pushes them into the 40s, a perfect spot to get left out. The rest of the games are all Quad 1 contests with really only the MSU game possibly falling to a Quad 2 game. So it becomes easy to predict the results. Each win would likely jump Michigan’s resume 3-5 spots, while each loss would set them back 2-4 spots. The higher they climb the more likely for less of a gain from wins and the further they fall the fewer points they would lose from a loss.
So basically any combination of .500 play against Illinois, MSU, Iowa, and OSU will NET gain Michigan about 3 spots while a 1-3 record probably pushes them back 3 spots. Basically this information makes it even more apparent how vital this game with Rutgers truly is.
As a bit of bonus material here are 12 games that could greatly impact Michigan’s tournament hopes this week:
Arkansas at Florida
Miami at Pitt
SDSU at Boise State
Wake Forest at Clemson
Gonzaga at San Francisco
UCLA at Oregon
Iowa State at Kansas State
Virginia Tech at Miami
San Francisco at San Diego
Texas Tech at TCU
USC at Oregon
Boise State at UNLV
Alright, no matter how you feel about what went down yesterday I hope that you are still rooting to see this team make the tournament. Selfishly, it is just that much more fun when Michigan is alive even with impossible odds. Their up and down nature makes it seem unlikely that they will do much, but I could definitely see this team hot for two games in the same building, shooting on the same rims. (Conversely, I could see them absolutely cold and a dud of a performance). Ehem, sorry, only bright side talk for now is how I will continue to see this season!
Honestly their chances to make the tournament really seem well within their reach. A 2-0 week might see them up to a 9 seed even, while an 0-2 week probably has people questioning the program and a tournament bid a very long shot at best.
Hope you had a great week and a good start to this one!
As always, for reference on how Quad Wins and Losses work:
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353