Was this enough? We'll find out tonight.
Hold onto your butts.
On Selection Sunday, Michigan is either one of the final at-large squads in the NCAA Tournament field or just on the wrong side of the bubble, depending on where you look. Before we get into the bracket projections and your rooting guide for today, here's a look at Michigan's final tournament resumé:
Record: 22-12 (21-12 vs. D-I), 10-8 Big Ten
RPI Strength of Schedule: 44
KP SOS: 45
RPI 1-25: 3-7
RPI 26-50: 1-4
RPI 51-100: 0-1
RPI 101+: 17-0
The above is why the oft-cited "record vs. RPI top-100" stat can be very frustrating; ten of Michigan's 16 games in that category have come against top-25 teams. Here's hoping the committee makes that distiction instead of oversimplifying.
For the most part, Michigan is projected to make it into the field. ESPN's Joe Lunardi came to that realization in his latest update despite leaving M out of the tourney even after the Indiana win; he now has the Wolverines as the third-to-last team in, playing a First Four game against San Diego State. Yahoo's Brad Evans has Michigan as the second-to-last at-large; SI's Michael Beller has them as the fourth-to-last team to make it. CBS's Jerry Palm is the more bullish, projecting Michigan as an 11-seed that avoids the First Four—and matching them up against Dayton, oddly enough.
So they're in, right? Unfortunately, it's not quite that certain. Two of the most accurate bracket prognosticators in recent years, according to the Bracket Matrix, still have Michigan missing the tournament. The Washington Post's Patrick Stevens places M as the third team out, citing that damned RPI stat:
A really tricky team. The Wolverines bagged a late victory over Indiana in the Big Ten tournament, and they have three top-25 victories. They’re also 4-12 against the top 100, which is even worse than UCLA’s 5-10, which proved good enough, a year ago. Michigan doesn’t have UCLA’s top-60 non-conference schedule strength, either. The inclination is to say the Wolverines are off to the NIT.
Assembly Call's Andy Bottoms also brings up that damned RPI stat in projecting M as the second team out:
Following a loss to Purdue on Saturday, times are tense in Ann Arbor. They have four great wins but are just 4-12 against the Top 100. While they don’t have a bad loss, a low total of quality wins and the fact that 11 of their 12 losses have come by at least nine points with 10 by double digits. The other concern is the non-conference strength of schedule, which ranks around 190th. Outside of a win over Texas, the best non-con victories came against North Carolina State and Elon.
There will be precedent broken no matter what happens with the Wolverines. No Big Ten team to finish with a winning conference record in the last five years has been left out; conversely, no team with as poor a record against the RPI top-100 (I know, I know) has made it.
One thing seems certain: if Michigan doesn't make it, John Beilein's suboptimal non-conference scheduling—at least as it pertains to RPI rankings—will largely be to blame.
Your rooting interest for this afternoon is simple: you want UConn, which has secured an at-large spot with their run through the conference tourney, to beat potential bid-thief Memphis in the American title game (3:15 pm, ESPN). The NCAA selection show begins at 5:30 pm on CBS; if Michigan is left out, the NIT selection show is at 8:30 on ESPNU.
AJ Hammons celebrates Purdue's victory.
Midway through the second half, CBS cut to a shot of John Beilein giving Moe Wagner an on-the-fly lesson on post defense. Wagner had just committed a shooting foul on Purdue center Isaac Haas and was subsequently pulled for Ricky Doyle.
On Purdue's ensuing possession, Haas bullied Doyle down low and drew another shooting foul. Any lessons Beilein gave out this afternoon came far too late to salvage Michigan's chances of reaching the Big Ten final and locking up an at-large bid.
Instead, it'll be a stressful Selection Sunday after the Boilermakers dominated the Wolverines in the paint. Michigan played all four of their centers; none provided resistance to the fearsome duo of Haas and AJ Hammons. Hammons finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks; Haas added 11 points in only nine minutes. Michigan's big men combined for ten points—seven by Mark Donnal, who played only 15 minutes due to foul trouble—and four boards.
Purdue opened each half with a big run—8-0 to start the game, 9-0 to open the second half—and whenever Michigan threatened to close the gap, the Boilermakers beat them back with dominant post play; Purdue scored 44 points in the paint to Michigan's 28. Despite being overwhelmed on the interior, the Wolverines frustratingly declined to double-team Purdue's big men until less than four minutes remained; when they finally did so on Hammons, the double was weak, and a few quick passes around the perimeter resulted in a Rapheal Davis layup.
Derrick Walton (14 points, 5 assists, 4 steals) and Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman (15 points, 7/11 FG) did their best to overcome Purdue's considerable advantage inside. They got little help. Zak Irvin and Duncan Robinson shot 2/12 combined from three-point range; the Wolverines were 6/25 as a team. The Boilermakers made two fewer three-pointers—on 13 fewer attempts.
Now Michigan, which entered today as the last at-large in the field on the Bracket Matrix, will nervously await their postseason fate.
If you're looking for Ace's Purdue preview, it's right here.
On Thursday morning, a few friends and I woke up early and made the blurry-eyed drive down south to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament. Things looked very bleak for Michigan at the time: Kenpom’s log5 projection gave the Wolverines a 14% chance of reaching the semifinals – and a 14% chance of keeping their dwindling NCAA Tournament hopes alive for Selection Sunday. After Michigan squandered an opportunity to grab a much-needed quality win at home against an Iowa team entering its March meltdown phase, those odds felt even lower.
The Big Ten is still one of the rare college basketball conferences that seems to value its regular season championship more than the conference tournament title – it was one of the last leagues to even adopt the late-season competition. It’s a deeply weird atmosphere: the home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers is a good venue, but seeing so many fans of different programs pack into the arena – seas of Indiana crimson streaked with Illinois orange, flashes of maize in sections of blue, supporters of almost all fourteen programs (no Rutgers, believe it or not) clad in team apparel milling around the concourse – is very disorienting. There are a lot of old people – and many more families with younger kids than college students in attendance. Every team has its band, which fill the stadium with chants, cheers, and energy far better than piped-in music ever could. A lot of Indiana fans show up to Indiana games in Indianapolis, vast hordes of middle-aged men in candy-striped pants.
In the two full days we’ve been here in Indy, we’ve seen six basketball games in person: three blowouts (Michigan State destroyed Ohio State in a classic root-for-the-meteor game in which you’re secretly glad that there probably won’t be a meteor, and two games – Purdue over Illinois and Maryland over Nebraska – pitted weak underdogs that had played 3 games in 3 days run out of gas against fresh teams with much more talent), Illinois’s upset over Iowa, which was somehow extremely baffling and completely predictable at the same time, and, most importantly, two critical Michigan victories. So far, our Big Ten Tournament experience has been a good one. I’m glad we went.
[After the JUMP, thoughts on UM’s Thursday and Friday in Naptown]
#8 Michigan (22-11, 10-8 B1G) vs
#4 Purdue (25-7, 12-6)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
|WHEN||1 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Purdue -6 (KenPom)|
Right: Michigan took the home leg against Purdue in their last matchup. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]
Moe Wagner's extended playing time today has been explained, at least in part, by the revelation that Ricky Doyle hurt his ankle late in the Northwestern game. Doyle played four minutes, all in the first half, compared to 16 effective minutes for Wagner, who's likely to serve as Mark Donnal's primary backup given the injury and his strong showing today.
THE LAST TIME
Zak Irvin scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half to lead a late Michigan rally for a 61-56 win over Purdue at the Crisler Center. Irvin was the only Wolverine in double figures, but Michigan held Purdue to only 0.92 points per possession and a 15/41 mark from inside the arc.
Michigan's victory over Indiana took them from clearly outside the field to very much in the at-large conversation, but a bid isn't sewn up yet. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan gives his outlook in ESPN's Bubble Watch:
In situations like these -- when bubble teams grab a huge win in conference tourney play -- it is typical for fans to assume their team must automatically be lifted into the field. Not so fast. As important as a late-season neutral-court tourney win against a top-20 RPI outfit is, and thrilling as it was, Friday was nonetheless Michigan's fourth top-100 win of the season. Its sub-200 nonconference schedule is still dead weight. The Wolverines' lack of bad losses compares favorably to other bubble teams, but a 4-11 top-100 record hardly makes for a sure bet. For now, it's more like a 50-50 bet. One more win like Friday's would do much to strengthen those odds.
With some potential bid thieves still out there, 50-50 seems accurate right now. ESPN's Joe Lunardi still had Michigan out of the field when he gave an update on TV following the game, though he had Vanderbilt ahead of the Wolverines, which I have a hard time seeing after the Commodores lost to a sub-.500 Tennessee squad in their SEC Tournament opener. Yahoo's Brad Evans, on the other hand, currently has Michigan as the last at-large in the field.
A win would seal up a bid. A loss and Michigan might need some help. Pull hard against Tulsa and St. Bonaventure tonight.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||3||PJ Thompson||So.||5'10, 188||56||12||No|
|Low usage, decent outside shooter, great assist:turnover ratio, high FT rate.|
|G||35||Rapheal Davis||Sr.||6'6, 217||64||17||Not really|
|Last year's B1G DPOY, iffy shooter but can hit open jumpers. True lockdown guy.|
|F||12||Vince Edwards||So||6'8, 225||66||21||No|
|Solid all-around player, 42% 3P shooter, PG-level assist rate.|
|F||50||Caleb Swanigan||Fr.||6'9, 250||62||24||Yes|
|Beast on boards, playing very well lately, can struggle with turnovers.|
|C||20||AJ Hammons||Sr.||7'0, 250||55||28||Not really|
|Living up to his potential: monster rebounder and shot-blocker, shooting 60%.|
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||So.||6'4, 200||46||14||No|
|39% 3P shooter rarely ventures inside arc. Good distributor.|
|G||1||Johnny Hill||Sr.||6'3, 187||44||18||Very|
|Strong finisher for a PG, TO-prone, no outside shot, surprisingly good off.|
|C||44||Isaac Haas||So.||7'2, 282||37||29||Very|
|Behemoth. Good finisher and rebounder, not nearly Hammons as shot-blocker.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
On the roundtable this week:
- A lot of basketball talk
- Most of it quite discontent
- This was obviously before the Indiana game
- Ed and Craig say things about Michigan's defense that I strenously disagree with
- I'd get in a knife fight with Craig if he wasn't in Hawaii
THE USUAL LINKS
Wow. Michigan wins. pic.twitter.com/GNZLREzdyL
— Simon Kaufman (@sjkauf) March 11, 2016
Wow doesn't even begin to cover it.
Michigan played for their tournament lives against Big Ten champions Indiana, a team that ran them off their home court just over a month ago, in front of a heavily pro-Hoosiers crowd in Indianapolis. Heading into the final minute, the perimeter-oriented Wolverines had made only 4/19 three-pointers. Somehow, they were only down three.
Zak Irvin found Duncan Robinson open in the corner; after missing his first five attempts from beyond the arc, Robinson calmly tied the game with 46 seconds left.
Then Kam Chatman stripped IU's OG Anunoby on Indiana's ensuing possession. Irvin secured the ball with 20 seconds left, and as Derrick Walton took the ball up the court, John Beilein allowed the game to play out instead of calling a timeout.
I doubt Beilein imagined Walton would dish the ball off to Chatman in the corner; it's certainly not what he would've drawn up in the huddle. But Chatman—much-maligned, bust-in-the-making, 27%-career-three-point-shooter Kam Chatman—hesitated a moment, then hoisted a picture-perfect shot over Nick Zeisloft that caught nothing but net, beating the buzzer by 0.2 seconds.
With that most unlikely play, Michigan went from very much out of the NCAA Tournament to, at worst, very much in the conversation for an at-large bid; they'll have the opportunity to cement their place in the field when they play the winner of Purdue/Illinois in tomorrow afternoon's semifinal.
Much like the final play, nobody could've guessed how the Wolverines would upset Indiana. Mark Donnal and Moe Wagner combined for 21 points on 9/9 FGs while frustrating talented Hoosier big man Thomas Bryant into going 3/8 from the field with two turnovers; Wagner hadn't tallied a point in over a month. For the second straight game, Derrick Walton didn't make a field goal and didn't score at all until the final minutes, but he dished out a Big Ten Tournament record 12 assists. Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman scored 15 points on 14 shots before fouling out late; Irvin and Robinson combined to go 9/25 from the field in uneven performances for each.
While Yogi Ferrell (14 points, 8 assists) was his usual stellar self, Michigan kept Indiana from their standard perimeter dominance; they went just 4/17 from beyond the arc, and the Wolverines scored 22 points off 15 IU turnovers.
The last of those points may have secured an NCAA bid for Michigan a day after Northwestern pushed them to the brink of the NIT. It's been difficult to guess how this Michigan squad will play on any given day. Today, when it mattered most, they surprised in the best possible fashion.