At this point of the season, with four games to go in the regular season, Michigan is sitting on the bubble. In my latest bracket projection, this past Monday, the Wolverines were located on the 10-seed line. Not too far off the “last four in” group of 11 seeds. If Michigan wants to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, there are still a few things they need to take care of.
Numbers to know
52 – Michigan’s current RPI rank
24 – Michigan’s current BPI ranking
27 – Michigan’s current Pomeroy basketball ranking, with an adjusted offensive rank of 10 and adjusted defensive rank of 103
37 – Michigan’s current strength of schedule
14 – the number of losses that usually excludes a team from earning an at large berth to the tournament
The Wolverines’ BPI, KenPom, and SOS numbers are all very good, while their RPI is still well within the range to historically earn a bid. They have wins over potential tourney teams: Wisconsin, SMU, Michigan State, and Marquette. They don’t have any terrible losses, but dropping games to Iowa and Ohio State were not good. The key will be avoiding unnecessary losses down the stretch.
State of the bubble
One of the things Michigan has going in its favor this year is the complete lack of bubble thieves from mid and low-major conferences. The American and Atlantic 10 will each most likely have just two representatives: SMU and Cincinnati and Dayton and VCU. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are two teams who will make the bracket from the WCC as well. After that though, the MVC has a shot to put their loser of a Wichita State-Illinois State final in (If both teams win out until then). Middle Tennessee might also have a slim shot, assuming they win out until an upset loss in the Conference USA finals. There really aren’t any bid thieves behind them.
On top of that, the bubble teams from other large conferences continue to lose, weakening the bubble further. Of course, if Michigan loses out, then they won’t make the tournament. However, they look to be in a pretty good position to punch their ticket if all goes well. The key will be splitting their last four games of the regular season. If they can do at least that, they should just barely squeak in. Sitting at ten losses right now, Michigan would then have twelve to end the regular season and pick up a thirteenth in the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan’s potential path
If Michigan loses to Rutgers, then their chance of making the Big Dance takes a major hit. Although the loss would be on the road, this would be by far their worst loss of the season and drag the Wolverines down. I think Michigan takes care of business tonight and notches a win. They then need one more win in their last three, but I think the Wolverines will nab two. I see Michigan making a statement win against Purdue on Saturday, and then dropping the next against a Northwestern team trying to secure their first ever tournament bid – OR – the Wolverines drop a close one to the Boilermakers and then bounce back against the Wildcats. Either way, I see a win against Nebraska in the final game. Michigan will then enter the Big Ten tournament as the 7 seed. Once again, they need to take care of business against the lower seed they face in their first game. A loss here probably still gets them in, but they would not be comfortable. I’m projecting a win, but then they run up against the 2 seed (either Purdue or Wisconsin) and I think Michigan falls short. However, having just 12 losses, the Wolverines should hear their names called as a 10 seed when the bracket comes out.
Just for fun, let’s take a stab at where the Wolverines could be if they won out. If they win their last four games of the regular season, they add good wins over Purdue and Northwestern to their resume. They finish 11-7 in the Big Ten and earn a double bye in the tournament. They would play three games, winning against the likes of Northwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue all again. Three more big wins, while closing out the season strong. After hanging around the bubble for the entire season, a 24-10 record and Big Ten crown would probably vault Michigan up to a 6 seed. (Somewhat like Seton Hall did last year in winning the Big East). Not likely to happen, but something fans can dream about.
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