It’s finally March, making it every college basketball fan’s favorite time of the year. Conference and NCAA Tournaments are about to kick off and chaos is about to ensue in the sport that so many people love. We are coming down to the nitty-gritty of the Big Ten season where every single game matters more than ever. With the Michigan Wolverines loss to Illinois on Tuesday, the door remains open for the top position heading into the final two games of the season? Can the Wolverines lock it up and be the Big Ten regular-season champs? Here is a synopsis of what the bracket could look like next week in Indianapolis:
Most likely scenario: Michigan the No. 1 seed
The odds are in Michigan’s favor here. All the Wolverines need to do is win one of their next two games to clinch as the top seed in the conference heading into the Big Ten Tournament. That will be far from a simple task despite the Wolverines 18-2 record. The Spartans have won four of their last five and are fighting for their postseason lives against their fiercest rival. If Michigan wins just one of their next two, they will claim the No. 1 seed and face the winner of the 8-vs-9 seed game in the first game of the day on Friday, March 12.
Another way they can earn this mark is with a loss from Illinois which is also entirely possible. Although they just kicked the Wolverines’ butt at the Crisler Center, the road doesn’t get any easier for Illinois to wrap up their 2020-21 season. They will go to Columbus and face the Top-10 Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday; no easy task. For once, Michigan fans may actually be rooting for Ohio State to win a game (kidding).
The best-case scenario is the most likely one for Michigan, but there are ways this could all fall to shambles.
Not likely, but possible: Michigan falls to No. 2 seed
The Big Ten regular-season champion and the Big Ten tournament seeding will be chosen by win percentage this season because not every program will have played the same amount of games. That is why Michigan’s loss to Illinois was so important for the Illini, it kept them in the hunt.
A Michigan team that ends the season on a three-game losing streak (losing both games to Michigan State) would have them at a 76% win percentage (13-4). Meanwhile, a win from Illinois would give them an 80% win percentage (16-4) and they would earn the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
The good news for the Illini is that their star guard Ayo Dosunmu could return to action this weekend after a facial injury. If the Wolverines lose their Thursday bout against the Spartans, the final game of the season for both Illinois and Michigan over the weekend will decide who takes the crown.
Illinois would need to defeat Ohio State in Columbus. If that were to happen, all the pressure in the world is on Michigan entering Sunday’s game on the back-to-back against Michigan State.
The Wolverines will have hypothetically lost two-straight games on their home court and will have to beat the Spartans on the road with the Big Ten regular-season championship on the line, and the last thing you want is to allow Tom Izzo and the Spartans to play spoiler in March.
A nightmare scenario it may be, but it certainly is not out of the question.
Who Michigan could play if they are the No. 1 seed (In order of most likely to least likely):
- Michigan State
Who Michigan could play if they are the No. 2 seed (In order of most likely to least likely):
- Wisconsin (as a No. 7 seed)
- Indiana (as a No. 10 seed)
- Minnesota (as a No. 10 seed)
- Maryland (as a No. 7 seed)
- Michigan State (as a No. 7 seed) - The only way this could happen is if Michigan State wins out and Maryland loses out. Hypothetically, could set up a trifecta of Michigan loses to the Spartans. This is the ultimate worst-case scenario for Michigan.
(This tool was used for research during this exercise! Have some fun with it.)
It’s crazy how many things can still happen in the Big Ten with only one or two games to go for every team in the conference. It just speaks to the incredible depth and talent that this conference has from top-to-bottom. I’m sure we are all looking forward to how the remainder of this season pans out as the Wolverines still sit as one of the top teams not only in the conference but in the entire country.