Welcome to what I think will be the final installment of this year's Michigan bubble watch. For the first time in forever we are getting to celebrate two wins in one week. Granted there was a loss separating them, but I’ll take it! There is a ton to cover today so let’s jump straight into it. And as we will look at some blind resumes I’ll leave Michigan’s off from the intro.
The first thing I want to quickly touch on is something that you will hear a lot this week when pundits talk about Michigan and their chances at making the tournament, already CBS’s Palm makes a mention of it in almost every bracket update. This "revelation" is that no team with only 3 more wins than losses has ever received a non-AQ bid into the Dance. Michigan currently sits at 17-13 and, you guessed it, a loss in the first round would plant Michigan right at that dreaded 3 win mark. While I do think this would have been a valid discussion with a loss to OSU, I don’t think it holds much weight after Michigan’s road victory. The reason why is because way back on December 21st, Michigan had a scheduled contest with Fort Wayne, who had to cancel because of Covid issues within the program. So do I think the committee will arbitrarily punish Michigan for not beating a team with a NET ranking of 224 way back in December? No, I do not and to continue to suggest that it could be a factor is a poor excuse and someone not doing their research which is the committee's job. Had Michigan lost to OSU and finished the season at 16-14 then that talk becomes valid as even with a win against Fort Wayne they would only be three games over .500. Basically this is a talking point and nothing more.
Much more importantly is the cushion Michigan currently has from dropping below the cutline and what that looks like. As hopefully you know by now there are 36 bids given out (68-32 conference AQ). So really in this final week the only question is which pod are you in? So to show this let’s quickly go through all the conferences looking to grab multiple bids:
So what these pods mean is that the LOCKS are making the tournament. It doesn’t matter if/when they lose in their respective tournaments they are in. The CLOSE TO LOCKS means any Quad 1 or Quad 2 victory and they become a lock. ON THE LINE is exactly that, here we will see the teams first to get cut by bid thieves or teams needing a few wins to climb into the CLOSE TO LOCK category. JUST OUT are teams that need a few wins or some other lucky breaks to get on the right side.
Finally we are going by conference because the last question we have to ask is how likely is it for the AQ winner to come from outside LOCKS or CLOSE TO LOCKS. Every time a team wins an AQ and they aren’t from those two pods it is likely that our bubble shrinks, especially in comparison to Michigan. So is that likely in the ACC? Well there is only one team, Duke, that has truly been dominant. Teams like Virginia Tech and FSU both seem like they could get hot and win the ACC AQ bid. If Duke was to get beat at any time then I could see a lurking team take advantage and win the AQ bid. This one seems dangerous so the confidence rating of not losing a bid is at 5.
The Big 12 has a lot of top tier teams. The gulf between the top and those that could steal a spot seems unlikely to be bridged. However, just a few wins by Oklahoma especially in their first game against Baylor could start to look dangerous. Most of these tournaments it would be best to see a limit of upsets. Confidence rating of 9.
There is only one team that I would worry about making an improbable run for the Big East AQ and that is St. Johns. They can be randomly dangerous at MSG. Outside of a run by the Johnnies I expect the winner to come from the chalk. This one shouldn’t shrink the bubble. Confidence rating of 8.
The Big Ten holds a lot of interest with Rutgers hanging on for dear life and Indiana fighting for a spot. But outside of that intrigue it seems likely the AQ will come from one of the top 6 teams hopefully leaving our bubble in tack. Confidence rating of 9.
To say Oregon is just out doesn’t really do it justice. They probably need a few wins in the PAC tourney to get back into it. Unfortunately, the PAC 12 has been known for teams to get on a run and Oregon has a great record against USC and UCLA. If someone else were to knock off Arizona, I wouldn’t find it hard to believe that Oregon won the tournament. This seems like real danger of having the bubble shrink. Confidence rating of 4.
The SEC has been quite strong this year especially at the top. I would be surprised if the winner didn’t come from someone from the lock category. However, the issue becomes that Florida and Texas A&M play each other in the first game. The winner of that game picks up a huge win and most likely needs just one more to have serious consideration for a spot. That would push them into On The Line territory. While it still shouldn't affect Michigan's bid, it does become dicey. I expect either Florida or Texas A&M to make a serious push for a spot. Confidence rating of 7.
The A-10 is extremely tough to figure out. Davidson’s resume stacks up well with a lot of other near bubble teams especially when you factor in another loss. If Davidson loses early they are probably done, but if they lose in the finals to either Dayton or VCU this could easily be a 2-bid league. Confidence rating 2.
The American is an extremely dangerous conference. Neither Memphis or SMU are reliable teams and SMU is still trying to secure a bid. Houston hasn’t looked all that great recently either. Luckily SMU and Memphis are on the same side of the bracket so hopefully one of them gets through and plays Houston. Still this is one to keep an eye on. Confidence rating of 6.
In the Mountain West these four seem to be the cream of the crop. Though it wouldn’t be a shock for a team like Fresno or even UNLV to make a run at the AQ, though it may come at the expense of either Boise State or Wyoming’s bid. Still this one seems a bit precarious. Confidence rating 6.
This one is pretty straight forward. Today St Marys plays the only team left that could steal a bid and then they would still have to beat Gonzaga. Confidence rating 9.
Alright so what does all that mean? Well we started off with 36 spots. Let’s take all the teams from the LOCK sections and for now we will * the first team of each conference for an AQ:
So if we ignore the * teams we get a total of 22 we subtract that from our 36 and we are left with 14 bids that aren’t secure. So we next take the teams from the CLOSE TO LOCK category:
That’s ten more teams off our list reducing the bubble to 4. This makes it extremely easy to see the last set of teams fighting over the final spots with one still not filled if Davidson gets the AQ:
So the reason for all this breakdown is two fold.
Even with a loss Michigan is not dropping into that lower category. Looking at resumes there is actually a pretty big divide between these two groups. Some of those on the cut line would need to win at least one big game. Conversely only bad losses, Quad 3 or 4, would drop a team from Close to Lock down into that group
Despite that fact that still means only 4 spots separate Michigan from a possible cut line.
If we look at the conference breakdown we can see that FIVE of these conferences have a confidence rating of 6 or less for a possible bid to be stolen. Any additional chaos would really put Michigan’s resume up against it.
However, another major reason that I group them this way is that any team in the CLOSE TO LOCK pod has a pretty comparable resume. Anyone that says with confidence that one team is on seed line 9 while the other is on seed line 11 isn't judging these resumes blind. To prove this point let’s do a blind resume test with half of them:
Now when I look at these resumes there are 5 metric numbers I like to use to judge:
NET, KPI, Average NET wins, Average NET losses, SOR (is the likelihood that a top 25 team would have equal or better record with the same schedule)
So TEAM A has a NET of 30, KPI 25, Average NET W 131, Average NET L 93, SOR 40
Taking these 5 teams and just ranking each metric 1-5 then giving each team a score we would have it look something like this:
Team A average comparative score - 2.6
Team B average comparative score - 2.6
Team C average comparative score - 1.8
Team D average comparative score - 4.4
Team E average comparative score - 3.6
So it seems like a clear distinction from the first three teams to the last two, but when we reveal them A - Boise State, B - Michigan, C - Michigan State, D - Notre Dame, E - Creighton we see that often the teams aren’t always so close when seeded. Basically, you could do this same study with any of the teams and the metrics will be close across the board. There are a few other things that I could point out on each team sheet, but you get the idea.
So since there is so little separation between these teams, it really ends up just depending on what the final debate is on Sunday night. Though one thing we can be fairly sure of. Teams making up the LOCK pod will most likely make up the seed lines from 1 through 8.
So when we are projecting the possible seed for Michigan, it is more than likely they will land in the 9-11 seed range. Outside of winning the B1G tournament I don’t see them climbing beyond a 9 seed and even with a loss they would be right with any of these teams that may lose early in their respective conference.
Alright let’s bring this back to the ground level for what any of this means and what to expect during this next week. Michigan’s win over OSU gave them a cushion. The problem is that how large that is, is definitely a judgment call that only the committee truly knows the answer to. A loss to Indiana doesn’t on the surface hurt Michigan, but with each win by teams like Florida, Indiana, Virginia Tech and with each unexpected AQ coming from outside the top teams in each conference Michigan could be in danger. Again the issue will keep coming back to the fact that the resume of Michigan and Miami is quite similar on paper depending on which metrics you choose to judge.
So if the bubble shrinks by 6 teams is Michigan at the top of that list of ten teams or are they at the bottom in the committee’s eyes?
Whew, well this was like only half of everything that I was wanting to dive into, but already I’m sure it is pretty length. Thanks to everyone for any kind words you have said while I have been posting these. They are appreciated. Also if you do have any further questions or would care to see other blind resumes let me know in the comments and I can post a few.
As always, for reference on how Quad Wins and Losses work:
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353