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Rooting Guide: Who to cheer against to help Michigan’s NCAA Tournament case

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After the blown lead against Indiana, Michigan needs some favors from a few teams in order to feel comfortable heading into Selection Sunday.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A cataclysmic failure of a second half against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament resulted in the Wolverines going 0-1 in the tournament for the first time since 2006. Now the fate of the Michigan Wolverines is up to the committee, as their resume is complete.

A 17-14 regular-season record would not have been good enough just a few years ago. But positive NET rankings, several Quad 1 wins and a top-10 strength of schedule give Michigan some optimism heading into Selection Sunday.

Luckily, some other teams on the bubble had early conference tournament exits. Florida lost to Texas A&M, Xavier fell to Butler, and Wake Forest dropped its first game to Boston College. All those losses were extremely important to Michigan’s chances of staying in the tournament, as most sat firmly on the bubble and lost to much worse competition.

But some mayhem in March could still change some people’s minds over the course of the next few days. Here are the teams you should be rooting against.

Oklahoma

It pained me to sit and watch the Sooners upset No. 3 Baylor on Thursday evening. They have the most to gain over any other team with Selection Sunday looming. With the win, they now have a better record than Michigan and have the recency bias of the upset.

The metrics really like the Sooners, who were No. 42 in NET Rankings before the upset over Baylor. In a Big 12 conference that will likely have six or seven teams in the tournament, the Sooners now have the opportunity to beat another team or two that could be dancing. If there is a team to have a lot of fear about, it’s Oklahoma, a team that has won four straight.

Indiana and Rutgers

From the Hoosiers’ perspective, what happened on Thursday afternoon was special. Overcoming a 17-point deficit and completely dismantling your opponent on basically a home court is going to bring a ton of vigor to this team.

Illinois will be a tough contest for them because of their size, but in these tournaments momentum can do some crazy things. And Indiana has a lot of it coming off the performance against Michigan.

Meanwhile, Rutgers somehow found itself with a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, achieving a series of wild upsets in the last month-and-a-half of the regular season. This is a team many have on the bubble and in the tournament already.

The Scarlet Knights now have Iowa coming in who just had a 112-point performance in a blowout win over Northwestern. But they had Iowa’s number already this season, holding the No. 1 scoring offense in the conference to just 46 points in a loss for the Hawkeyes. A repeat performance would all but seal Rutgers’ spot in the Big Dance.

Virginia Tech

Tech has recently reappeared on a lot of bubbles and just beat a tournament team in Notre Dame on Thursday. Now they face a North Carolina squad that has been red hot as of late and re-emerged in the top-25.

The Hokies are 0-2 against the Tar Heels this season and the age-old saying of “it’s tough to beat a team three times” could come in to play here. Especially because Virginia Tech has won 11 of its last 13.

A win for the Hokies on Friday puts them in the ACC Championship on Saturday against either Duke or Miami. That resume and success this late in the season will surely catch the committee’s attention.

Texas A&M

The Aggies are perhaps the streakiest team in college basketball. After starting 15-2, Texas A&M dropped eight straight games before rounding off the season winning six of the last seven, including five straight, capped off with a win in their first matchup of the SEC Tournament over Florida.

Now the Aggies have a massive opportunity with No. 4 Auburn ahead in a matchup that would all but seal them a tournament spot if they won. Only tournament teams would be ahead of them with a win, giving them the opportunity to present an even stronger case to the committee.

Colorado

Arizona is set to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but nearly lost to Stanford in its first game in the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday.

If Colorado would escape with the Pac-12 crown, obviously it would be an automatic bid in the tournament and there would be one less spot for bubble teams. The Buffs meet Arizona in the next round, who just nearly fumbled the bag against Stanford. The Buffs also topped the Wildcats in Boulder just two weeks ago. If they do so again, they’ll be playing for the championship against either UCLA or USC, two other tournament teams.

Anyone but Davidson in the Atlantic 10 Conference

The Atlantic 10 could do some damage. Davidson is probably in no matter what. A 25-5 record on the season and going 2-2 against Quad 1 opponents including a win over No. 10 Alabama in Tuscaloosa should be enough for them. Both Dayton and VCU sit on most expert’s bubbles right now. A run from St. Louis or St. Bonaventure could propel them into the conversation at the very least, too.

If Davidson doesn’t win the A10 Tourney, two teams will lose security because of the auto-bid and the Wildcats’ play this season. Hopefully their 15-3 record in conference play will stay true in the A10 Tournament.

SMU/Memphis

Both these teams appear in a lot of bubbles and Memphis is the Michigan of the AAC. It brought in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation and have largely disappointed. However, it have had a sharp turnaround as of late, winning 10 of the last 11 regular season game.

The Tigers’ only loss in that span was to SMU, which struggled over its last three games. After getting demolished by Houston, the Mustangs barely squeezed out wins over Cincinnati and Tulane to end the season.

Both teams start their AAC Tournament journey on Friday after a bye in the first round. A loss from either this early in the tournament could mark the end of their season. A deep run could mean both are in.

Wyoming

The Cowboys are one of the more interesting teams in the country and it’s why a lot of people like them. They’re 23-7 on the year and are 10-5 against Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents. Michigan is 15-14.

Lots of experts have Wyoming dancing...for now. The Cowboys narrowly escaped the jaws of UNLV, but they have a chance to knock off the No. 1 seed in Boise State on Friday. They were 1-1 in that series during the regular season and a win for Wyoming in that contest sends them to the conference championship game.


As you can see, there are quite a few teams who could capitalize on the Wolverines’ misfortune. At best, they are one of the Last Four Byes right now, but there are plenty of scenarios where they could lose their spot in the tournament altogether. It may take a lot to get there, but hey, this is March. Usually, madness ensues.