clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Michigan’s Saturday rooting guide: Do we really have to cheer on Duke?

Michigan’s tournament hopes could use a little help following that loss to Illinois.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Well, there’s no denying it: This sucks. Less than two days ago, Michigan basketball’s road to the NCAA Tournament felt much simpler than it would become following a heartbreaking loss to Illinois on Thursday night.

And while Michigan would love to enter this weekend as a comfortable lock heading into the Big Ten Tournament, a must-win matchup against No. 13 Indiana remains. Unfortunately because of the loss in Champaign, the Wolverines will need a little help if their hope is to avoid missing the big dance for the first time since 2015.

It’s never fun rooting for anyone other than the Wolverines but with their tournament hopes clinging to a tough road game, they’ll take all of the resume boosters they can get.

If you’re still confused or just wildly opposed to cheering for any team other than Michigan, here’s a rooting guide to assist you in navigating all of the meaningful matchups on this fine Saturday.

No. 12 Tennessee at Auburn

  • 2 p.m. EST, ESPN
  • Root for: Tennessee

With Tennessee already securely locked as a tournament team, Michigan fans will take interest in the downfall of projected bubble team, Auburn. The Volunteers still have plenty to play for, with a top-four seed likely on the line when they take on the Tigers, but Auburn is no slouch. Expect a slugfest, with the two teams’ first meeting of the season being a close Vols win, 56-52.

Duke at North Carolina

  • 6:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
  • Root for: Duke

This one helps Michigan’s case in a couple different ways, with the Wolverines suffering an 80-76 loss to the Tar Heels on a neutral court back on Dec. 21. Duke claimed the season’s earlier contest between the two in a grind-it-out 63-57 win. The Blue Devils have continued to play well recently but ESPN seems to favor North Carolina, giving Caleb Love and company a 57.5% chance to win Saturday’s matchup.

With North Carolina teetering on the brink of the bubble while also just having picked up their first Quad 1 win recently against Virginia, the Tar Heels are as good a team as any to potentially be knocked out of contention.

UNLV at Nevada

  • 5 p.m. EST, Nevada Sports Net
  • Root for: UNLV

UNLV lost to fellow bubble contender Utah State during their previous outing, 91-66. If the Runnin’ Rebels hope to achieve a similar outcome today, they will need to commit fewer fouls (16.5 per game) and turn the ball over less (12.3 turnovers per game). Nevada is fresh off a loss, falling 80-71 to Wyoming. With the Wolfpack giving up a A LOT defensively, this could be an ideal upset to watch for.

Arizona State at USC

  • 11 p.m. EST, FS1
  • Root for: USC

If you follow Joe Lunardi’s bracketology, then you’re aware Arizona State holds a spot as a “Last Team In” in recent projections. In theory, a win by ASU could prove disastrous for the Wolverines, with the Trojans already considered to be one of the final teams receiving a bye in the NCAA Tournament. And with ASU already holding a stronger resume than Michigan — and the head-to-head victory earlier this season — a win for the Sun Devils would all but secure a spot for both PAC-12 bubble teams ahead of Michigan. USC enters this game favored by ESPN’s matchup predictor, with a 72.3% chance of winning.