The Uphill Climb
Welcome back to the first look at Michigan’s chances for making this year’s NCAA Tournament. With football officially over I figured now was a good time to check in. Not sure how often I will do these, this early on, but it will likely become weekly as we get closer to March 12th, Selection Sunday.
To begin, let's touch on a few basics just to make sure everyone is up to speed on what things will be constant, at least for this season.
There are 32 conference tournament winners this year thus leaving 36 spots to be given by the committee (68 in total)
For now the main rankings used by the Committee is the NET rankings foundhere
Teams often have a Team Sheet that the Committee uses. These contain various rankings, metrics, and then Quad wins/losses from the NET rankings
Quad wins are determined like this:
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
So the main question that we will be asking each time is the crucial one of, How does Michigan Make the Dance? And to figure out that answer let’s start with Michigan’s Resume:
Obviously it is still early and please take these spot listings with a high degree of variability, but I would be quite surprised by two things. The first is any team not listed here making the tournament without a conference tournament championship. The second is that almost every team currently listed "vying for seed lines 1-5" to make it.
So what does this mean? Well as stated there are a total of 36 bubble spots available. For this discussion, let’s assume that everyone in the "other" section is their respective Conference Tournament Champion and each of those conferences end up as single bid conferences (this btw is extremely unlikely, but it is the most the field could possibly be expanded). So we are left with 62 teams in our table. Of that list it is likely for 9 of them to be Conference Tournament Champions. So that coveted 36 spots has a competition between 53 teams.
From there the first thing I’ll notice is how far behind Michigan is from most teams and more concerning from the ones like: Michigan State, Iowa, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, or even Pittsburgh. All these teams are sitting near the bottom of the bracket or some out all together. Another thing to note is that from every team listed, here are the only ones with a Quad 4 loss:
Iowa, Utah State, TCU, Boise St, UCF, Clemson, Arizona State, Colorado, BYU, Ole Miss
Looking at all of those data points, what we need to start figuring out really is two fold. The first, how many and which games does Michigan need to win to control their own destiny no matter what else happens throughout the country. The second factor is which teams should we hope for a collapse that would take them out of the running. It would be much easier to make the tournament if there were only 40 or so vying for 36 spots as opposed to the 53+ we are currently looking at.
For this post let’s mainly look at that first factor and not get too much into the second as currently it seems quite extensive. So with that stated here is Michigan’s remaining schedule and likely Quad ranking of those games:
So the quick takeaway is that with the expectation of the Big Ten cannibalizing itself all season long like we saw on Sunday (NW beating IU, Iowa beating RU, MD beating OSU) there won’t be many NET 25+ teams thus all home games will likely be Quad 2. Unlike last year where Michigan had multiple opportunities to gain Quad 1 victories on their court, this year they will have to earn them on the road.
From that projection there should be roughly 9 Quad 1 opportunities available for Michigan the rest of the way. They currently hold an 0-4 record and need to finish with a minimum of at least 4 Quad 1 wins to even be in the discussion. Last year Michigan barely made the tournament and had a 5-9 Quad 1 record. Seeing as how the Bubble looks a lot stronger this year and how Michigan has a Quad 4 loss that they must overcome, it would be advisable to get that Quad 1 win total to 6. So while they may pick up a free one with Pittsburgh’s continued quality play, that would still mean Michigan needs to go 5-4 in the rest of those Quad 1 games.
After that we have two games that jump out as near "can’t lose" contests of Nebraska and Minnesota both at home. With already one bad loss on the resume, picking up another especially to a 200+ NET Minnesota would seem close to a death nail. So they need to go 2-0 in those contests. The rest of the 5 home games Michigan can finish as bad as 2-3 and I think it would be fine.
That means we are looking at needing a record of 9-7 the rest of the way. That would give them a conference record of 12-8 with one bad loss and a ton of quality wins both on the road and at home.
Again that’s the record where I believe Michigan controls their own destiny to make the tournament. It also counts Pittsburgh continuing to play well giving Michigan at least one non-conference quality win. If they end up with only 5 Quad 1 wins then they may need to get to 13-7 in conference play in order to secure a bid. So while doable, that is definitely a tall task especially in a strong conference with a ton of parity and a young Michigan team light at the guard position.
With that said, I’d say these next two games may define the season. Iowa is vulnerable and beatable. Michigan needs both a Quad 1 and road win. Northwestern is dangerous, but not more athletic or stronger in the post. Win both and get a few other breaks this week and Michigan goes from the far reaches of the bubble to probably just outside. Lose one or god forbid both and we are starting to talk about desperate times and long shot odds. It really does feel like a make or break week for the Wolverines.