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

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With Michigan still on the bubble, it needs all the help it can get.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Texas A&M vs Auburn Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines were bounced out of the Big Ten Tournament in the first round after a historic collapse in the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday. Now, the fate of their season is up to the committee on Selection Sunday with a 17-14 record.

Friday was another day of madness in March, as some big upsets by bubble teams are putting the Wolverines’ NCAA Tournament in some doubt. Yes, Michigan’s NET Rankings and Strength of Schedule are in its favor against some smaller schools, but its tournament case has been highly debated for weeks as it is.

On Friday morning, bracketmatrix.com still had the Wolverines in 120 of the 129 total brackets. A Rutgers loss the Iowa Hawkeyes certainly helps, but some other play in the Big Ten could make things a little more messy going forward. Thankfully, Colorado’s run in the Pac-12 Tournament came to a close against Arizona, a team it defeated two weeks prior.

Another team to fear was/is Oklahoma, which lost to Texas Tech after beating Baylor on Thursday. The Sooners very nearly beat two top-three seeds in the NCAA Tournament in consecutive games AND now have a better record than Michigan on the year.

By Friday night, some brackets had shifted. Jerry Palm moved Michigan outside of his field. Joe Lunardi had the Wolverines hanging on by a thread as one of the Last Four In along with Wake Forest, Xavier and SMU. Mike Decourcy shared this cryptic tweet from the NCAA’s Director of Media Coordination, David Worlock, midway through the day:

There is still a lot of action going on across the country and plenty to be decided. But as we get closer to Selection Sunday, the less likely I feel Michigan will be in the Field of 68 when all is said and done. Here are the teams to root against on Saturday to help ease the load for the Wolverines.

SMU

Both SMU and Memphis were on yesterday’s rendition of this article, and unfortunately for Michigan both won their first games in the AAC Tournament. Now they play against each other and the lesser of two evils would be the Mustangs taking the fall.

Memphis has a better resume and more talent on its team than SMU does. Many consider the Tigers to be one of the Last Four Byes in the tournament as it sits right now. Meanwhile, SMU is either one of the Last Four In or one of the First Four Out. So a win for Memphis could still be enough to give Michigan an edge, especially because of the wide margin in NET Rankings (Michigan is No. 34, SMU is No. 48).

A win sends SMU to the AAC Championship game with a chance to win an automatic bid. Looking to the past, the Mustangs beat Memphis pretty handily twice this season, including a 73-57 win in late February. This could be the nail in the coffin game for the Wolverines.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is on an Indiana-esque run in the ACC Tournament right now. The Hokies took Clemson to overtime and won on a three-point buzzer-beater on Wednesday. Since then, they defeated another bubble team in Notre Dame and wiped the floor with No. 25 North Carolina Friday night.

Suddenly, they are in the ACC Championship with the Duke Blue Devils. Their NET Ranking prior to the win over the Tar Heels was No. 33, one spot ahead of Michigan. However, they are just 2-6 on the season against Quad 1 opponents and have two losses against Quad 3 teams.

They have done their job in the ACC Tournament by putting their names back in the conversation in the committee’s eyes. Michigan fans will need to hope the Hokies get obliterated by Duke to the point that it makes this late-season run they are on look like a fluke. Or else, it could be another team getting the nod above the Wolverines.

Texas A&M

The Aggies are making a strong case for themselves after upsetting No. 4 Auburn on Friday. Odds are they cemented their future as a tournament team with that win.

A&M is perhaps the streakiest team in college basketball. After starting 15-2, Texas A&M dropped eight straight games before rounding off the season winning seven of the last eight, including six straight, capped off with Friday’s win over Auburn.

Jerry Palm put the Aggies in the tournament ahead of Michigan before they even beat Auburn. Now they have plenty of positive momentum, a better record and a major recency bias with a win over a top-five team. It’s a serious possibility they hear their name called over Michigan on Sunday.

Arkansas is the next team in their way to a potential SEC Championship. It would be another Quad 1 win for the Aggies if they take care of business.

Indiana

The Hoosiers put themselves in the tourney after beating the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, Illinois, Friday afternoon. This was probably the worst-case scenario for the Wolverines. If this was an either-or for the committee, there is no doubt that Indiana now has the advantage.

The Hoosiers have more momentum than any other team in the country right now and are playing their conference tournament on their home turf. They have already made things much worse for the Wolverines, and continue to do so.

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.

VCU was a bubble team to the eyes of many, but got knocked off by Richmond with Dayton looming in the next round. Saint Louis and Davidson tipoff at 1 p.m.

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 its 15-3 record in conference play will stay true in the A10 Tournament.


If I were to venture a guess, about 8-12 spots in the tournament will go to the following teams: Xavier, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Florida, Texas A&M, Indiana, Dayton, Davidson, SMU, Memphis, Rutgers, Wyoming, Oklahoma, UAB, BYU, SDSU, San Francisco, VCU, North Texas and whoever else might wind up winning a conference championship that wasn’t one of the top seeds.

That’s a lot of competition and a lot of debate to be had over the next two days.

At the moment, things are not looking bright for the Wolverines, and it is kind of crazy how much can change in such a short period of time. A week ago, many considered them to be a lock for the tournament after an upset in Columbus. Now, it seems like they are on thin ice that continues to melt by the day.