a terrible blight on our fine country
The Michigan offer blitz is in full effect with over 100 offers already extended by the coaching staff. The 2012 offer list is here and for the most part accurate. There have been a lot of questions asked about the number of offers being thrown out. It's probably not going to be a normal thing in the future. These coaches are new to the neighborhood so they're trying to make their presence known.
Giving out offers to high profile kids does a few things for the coaches. It shows everyone that they're serious about recruiting high talent kids to Michigan, that they think they can land some of them, and that they want to build relationships for the future. In year one, this is probably a decent strategy. Here's a look at some of the recent happenings.
6'0", 185 lbs.
Old Tappan, New Jersey
Fuller is an outstanding athlete that brings a lot to the table at many positions. He has made a name for himself in his area, and his film is really impressive. He was recently extended a Michigan offer and very excited about that.
It's a huge [offer] for me and my family. I know they have great tradition over there, and they all know how to win. Plus the academics are great as well. I don't have a top list yet, but Michigan was a big one, I must say. The coaches see me at quarterback, but they will give me a chance at any other positions. I'm probably looking to make my decision in the summer time so I can get it over with.
As Devin said the Michigan coaches have told him he can try quarterback. He's an all round athlete so it wouldn't be wasting a scholarship if that didn't work out.
6'6", 260 lbs.
Williams is a big tight end prospect who has been offered by Michigan, Boston College, Illinois, NC State, and Toledo among others. He's a little raw, but obviously has the size.
It means a lot that [Michigan] offered. I love the way the staff is honest and I love how it's a big powerhouse. It means a lot that they were recruiting me from the beginning too. Kind of like a friend that was with you since childhood, if someone else comes a long you still like the childhood friend better. I'm going to try to make it up there after basketball season, and really get everything going then.
Williams sounds very interested in Michigan and is also hearing from Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. The coaching staff has already made AJ feel comfortable, as he mentioned about honesty. They told him they would be recruiting him, that they would offer, and everything they've said to him that would happen has happened. That's made an impact on him.
6'1", 182 lbs.
Gant was talked about a lot before the 2012 recruiting class started, and has seen his recruitment consistently gain profile. He doesn't have a top list yet, but still sees Michigan as one of his top schools.
I talked to Coach Funk and Coach Mattison sent me something last week. I don't have the exact date set up, but I will be visiting there soon. I think they might offer me either after they see my film, or after I go to camp. I'm just focusing on a place where I know I can be happy, and I can contribute right away.
Grant's play speaks for itself, and he should be in the top 20 players in Ohio. Considering the amount of talent in their state this year, that's pretty impressive. Although I'm sure he'd like to make a name for himself, Michigan fans probably know him best for being related to Charles Woodson and being the son of a former Michigan football player.
Names to Keep An Eye On:
DE Javonte Magee (6'5", 262 lbs) Texas: big time defensive end from Texas is close to an offer. Will probably be hard to pull from Texas, though.
OL Prince Eshan (6'3", 295 lbs) Texas: teammate of Javonte Magee says that he hopes to get a Michigan offer. He likes the snow, and wants to check out some teams to the north.
DT Jonathan Taylor (6'4", 315 lbs) Georgia: Huge defensive tackle with a very impressive offer list could be hearing from Michigan soon.
- Illinois OL Dan Voltz says that Michigan will be one of his top teams.
- Michigan DT Matt Godin talked to me about his offer and Michigan.
- A look at some of the running backs Michigan is after so far. That list has gone up since RB Vonte Jackson was offered.
- Georgia DT Jordan Watkins talks about Michigan, and the fact that he could be closing in on an offer.
- Ohio State commit OL Kyle Kalis was offered by Michigan. Three of his teammates also hold Michigan offers, and could affect where he goes.
It's the last day of February. Selection Sunday is 13 days away. While I constantly keep tabs on the Bracket Matrix throughout the winter, doing so now carries even more excitement because who is in the Matrix now might finally resemble who actually makes the field [Ed-M: and Michigan's in it!].
Mock brackets throughout most of January and February are so fluid that it's hard to put a ton of stock in them, other than to guage where exactly certain teams are on the pecking order at that moment in time. Now grabbing a spot in the Matrix means you could be a win or two away from netting an actual bid. As far as interest from the mock crowd goes, this is the time to be peaking. And while our Michigan Wolverines still have some work to do to get into the actual tournament they and their profile are grabbing people's attention at the right time. Let's take a look.
Right now, Michigan sits with 12 of 75 votes among the mock bracketology crowd. That number obviously is a low one but it represents major progress on two fronts. One, it's the most mock votes the Wolverines have had at any time this season. At the beginning of each of the last two weeks they had peaked with seven votes. For the first time on the campaign, Michigan has been elevated into the Matrix's final eight cut group, albeit in the eighth spot. The numbers may look bleak and small, but at least the Wolverines are trending in the right direction at the right time. The question is will there be enough season left and can Michigan win enough games and others lose enough during that point to make a major move?
A look deeper into the Matrix numbers reveals that Michigan may be a lot closer to the actual bracket than their measly 12-vote haul indicates. Let's break it down by the most recent straw poll. All told, there are 75 bracketologists that participate. However, only 28 of them have cast their ballots since the close of Saturday's action. Let's focus on those 28 ballots. The Wolverines grab 10 of their votes from those early voters, so they are running at about 35-percent support when it comes to the most recent exit poll. Should Michigan maintain that level of support with the remaining four dozen or so ballots, they would rise to about 27 votes. In the current Matrix, that high of a vote total would be good for third-from-last cut.
Even better, Michigan is really maxing out with more support among the early voters than a lot of the other teams ahead of them in the Final Eight Cut list. For example, currently Cleveland State, Colorado State and Wichita State are the first, second and third to last teams cut from the comprehensive Matrix. But they're still relying on support from mocks that have not updated to prop up their position in the pecking order. Of the 28 early voters this week, Cleveland State and Wichita have six votes apiece while Colorado State, fresh off one of the worst bubble losses of the weekend to Air Force, has just one vote. If the early voting is any indication, Michigan has passed all three of those teams. They're also faring better than Southern Miss, fifth-to-last cut, who had six votes from the early mocks and UTEP, sixth-to-last cut, who had just one. If voting form holds--a big IF obviously -- when the Matrix updates again (usually around dinner time every Monday night) expect Michigan to at least be a couple spots closer to the field than their current eight-from-last-cut Matrix position.
The only two teams within that Final Eight Cut group trending better than Michigan are Clemson--a team Michigan beat on the road three months ago, who netted 13 of 28 early votes and have a total of 22 votes altogether and Colorado, who like Michigan, has 12 total votes with almost all of them coming from the early voters. In that demographic, the Buffs grabbed 11 votes, one more than the Wolverines. The Tigers have a huge game at Duke this week, then close the season at home against Virginia Tech. I think an argument can be made on either side of the coin as to whether or not we should be cheering for or pulling against Clemson. As for Colorado, their surge comes on the heels of their electric second half Saturday night when they took down Texas, one of the marquee wins of the weekend. They travel to Iowa State on Wednesday and close at home over the weekend against Nebraska. They can't afford to lose either game. We are decidedly Cyclone and Cornhusker fans this week.
Outside of the final eight cut, there are a couple teams to look out for, which are trending at upwardly support but just a smidge beneath Michigan. Penn State received eight of their 11 total votes from the 28 early ballots and Baylor grabbed seven of their 10 from that same crowd. Both have major showdowns this week where wins could skyrocket them up the charts. The Nittany Lions--a team Michigan swept in two games this season--play host to Ohio State and travel to Minnesota. A 2-0 week would be a major statement and put them in position for an actual bid heading into the Big 10 Tournament. As for Baylor, they continued their inconsistent season over the weekend with a win over Texas A&M. They travel to Oklahoma State and host Texas to close the season. They need a 2-0 week as well, and if they pull that off, a bid might be back in their grasp when their league sectional begins. So, we should keep an eye on both PSU and Baylor and cheer against both this week. So, uh, Go Buc....eh, I cant say it, even if I mean it.
As for the teams currently perched inside the Matrix, there are a couple really shaky at large bids right now. Michigan is trending equally or better than both based on the early returns. One, of course, is Minnesota which Michigan defeated in glorious fashion on Saturday. The Gophers still have 45 total votes, good for a spot on the 11-line. But only six of 28 early voters have them in their field. That's four less than the Wolverines pulled in the early straw poll. They might tumble out of the Matrix during its next comprehensive update. So too might the Alabama Crimson Tide. They suffered a bad road loss to Ole Miss over the weekend, something akin to losing on the road to Iowa to make a Big 10 comparable. Like the Gophers, they're seeing their support hemmorage. They are on the 12-line with 42 votes, but they received the exact amount of support--10 votes--as Michigan in the early voting this go around.
What does all this mean? Well, not much. The Selection Committee doesnt really care what mock bracketologists have to say. But these folks put a ton of effort into it and, in the end, they're competing with one another to produce the most accurate facsimile of the eventual field. And among that crowd, Michigan right now is rising. When the Matrix does its next comprehensive update, depending on how many fresh votes it entails, don't be surprised to see Alabama and Minnesota fall out, Clemson and Colorado jump in to take their place and Michigan elevate as high as one of the final two teams cut from the Matrix. It might not be the best position to be in, but at least a clear path exists between and the field of 68.
One last note on the mock bracket crowd. Much has been made in the forums over the weekend about Lunardi finally putting us in his field. Since he hasnt formally published a new bracket at ESPN.com, his vote has not been updated in the Matrix. So, we can assume Michigan will at least pick up one more vote there. But, what I want to mention is something I've brought up numerous times. He is not the best bracketologist, just the most famous. The best, IMHE, is Bracketology 101. Not only have they proven more accurate than Joey Brackets in recent years, but they just put a lot more thought and foresight into their projections. And I swear Joey Brackets' updates throughout the winter are geared a little bit to put an extra highlight on upcoming televised games on the WWL. Just an observation I've made over time. B101 has no such biases. Anyway, Michigan has been one of their final four teams cut for two weeks running and they've mentioned several times that the Wolverines have been one of their most debated teams during the back half of February. It's worth pointing out the Michigan has been elevated into their field for the first time this season, projected as a 12-seed to play fellow 12-seed Colorado in one of the play-in games. Is it a good thing that the most accurate bracketologist has the Wolverines in their field with just 13 days to go until Selection Sunday? Yes, it is. Here is what they said about the Wolverines:
With no bid-stealers available, we had to pick from a group of teams with a lot of warts and a lot of work left to do. . . . . . Michigan made the cut, despite their loss at home to Wisconsin on Wednesday, because we think they have a decent chance to beat Michigan State at home this weekend and then win their first Big Ten tourney game.
So there you go. The best in the biz saying that Michigan might be just two wins away from the bid and they have a decent enough shot of pulling that off that they made their field. It's not the most ringing endorsement, but given the expectations we had when the season began, we'll take it. It should be a fun weeklong building up to the State game on Saturday and, of course, scoreboard watching in the interim.
Not a huge slate of games today, but a couple of interest for Michigan fans. I'm using the Bracket Matrix for my list of bubble teams to watch, so keep in mind that it gets just a little bit out of date at times (only 28/47 brackets in their matrix have been updated since all of this weekend's games, and 18 haven't updated in more than a week. I promise you that Minnesota is nowhere near the field, much less solidly in like the Matrix says).
I'm considering 8 and 9 seeds "on the bubble" for now, since most of them have 2 more games plus a conference tournament to go. Going 0/3 would knock a lot of those teams out - unlikely though that may be for a lot of them. Most of those teams will be locks with their next win, so the situation is very fluid for the final week of the regular season.
Per the Bracket Matrix:
|Teams||Bubble In||Bubble Out|
|Big East||11||Marq (10)|
|SEC||6||Tenn (9), UGa (10), Bama (12)|
|Big Ten||6||Ill (10), MSU (10), Minn (11)||Mich, PSU|
|ACC||5||VT (12), BC (11), FSU (9)||Clem, Mary|
|Big 12||5||KSU (9)||Neb, Bay, Colo, OkSt|
|Pac-10||3||Wash (8), UCLA (8)||USC|
|Atlantic 10||3||Richmond (12)||Dayton, Duquesne|
|Mountain West||3||UNLV (8)||Colo St|
|West Coast||2||Zaga (12), St Mary's (11)|
|Colonial||2||Old Domin (8)||VCU|
|CUSA||2||Memphis (11), UAB (12)||USM, UTEP, Marsh, UCF|
|WAC||1||Utah State (9)|
|Missouri Valley||1||Missouri St (13)||Wichita St|
|Horizon||1||Butler (12)||Cleve St, Valpo, UW-Mil|
|Summit||1||1-bid Oakland (13)|
|Northeast||1||1-bid (LIU-Brooklyn)||Robert Morris|
|MAC||1||1-bid (Kent St)||Buff, Miami, WMU|
|Ivy||1||1-bid Harvard (13)||Princeton|
|Metro Atlantic||1||1-bid (Fairfield)||Rider, Iona|
|Mid-Eastern||1||1-bid (Beth-Cook)||Hampton, Morgan St|
As a general rule, you are cheering against all the teams listed (except, of course, Michigan). Some of your biggest cheers should go against:
- Marquette. With no Big East teams on the wrong side of the bubble, the Golden Eagles losing should knock the Big East down to a 10-bid(!) league.
- Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Same story in the SEC. With no teams on the wrong side of the bubble, losses by these squads will reduce the number of bids for their league.
- Minnesota. They're probably already waaaay on the outside by this point, but one more loss should be the nail in the coffin.
- All the listed ACC teams except Clemson. The Tigers are a Michigan opponent (indeed, a Michigan road win), but the rest of those teams getting knocked out opens up some spots.
- All the listed Big 12 teams. This makes you a huge fans of the great (Kansas and Texas) and terrible (Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State) Big 12 teams. Double whammy for Kansas, as they're a past Michigan opponent.
- Washington, UCLA, and USC. If these three lose, the PAC-10 could be a 1- or 2-bid league.
- Richmond. The spiders losing will lose bids for the A-10. Dayton and Duquesne are probably done.
- UNLV and Colorado State. Though the Mountain West may end up with a pair of 2-seeds (BYU and SDSU), if UNLV and Colorado State don't finish strong, those could be the only bids.
- Gonzaga and St. Mary's. Next loss by either of these two could drop the West Coast Conference down to a 1-bid league.
- Old Dominion. Bring the Colonial down to a 1-bid league.
- All the Conference USA teams except for UTEP (a past Michigan opponent).
You are also a big fan of some teams:
- Harvard. A past Michigan opponent, you want them to win the Ivy league over Princeton. There's a decent chance the Crimson end the season in the RPI Top 50.
- Utah State. They're probably going to make the tournament no matter what, so you don't want the WAC Tournament to be won by anyone else.
- Butler. They're on the borderline, but almost in the same situation as USU. You want them to be the only Horizon League team in the tourney. Barring that, you want them knocked down a peg so they won't make the tournament unless they win the league.
- Michigan State. Just plug your nose and do it. You want them to be a top-50 team, so Michigan can get 2 wins over them.
And so, without further ado, your rooting guide for tonight's games.
- Villanova over Notre Dame (7:00PM, ESPN). Both teams are solidly in, but the Wildcats only played (bubble squad) Marquette once, whereas Notre Dame split 2 games with the Golden Eagles. Every little bit counts, and you're also weakening the top of the Big East a bit. Plus you get to cheer against Notre Dame.
- South Carolina Upstate over Florida Gulf Coast (7:30PM, live video, audio, and stats here). Michigan played USC-Upstate earlier this season. Strengthen that schedule, baby!
- NC Central over Bethune-Cookman (8:00PM, live audio here). NC Central is a past opponent as well.
- Texas over Kansas State (9:00PM, ESPN). This set of Wildcats is strongly on the bubble. Hopefully Texas can loosen their grasp on a bid.
- Cal State Bakersfield over Gonzaga (9:00PM, gametracker and audio here). As mentioned above, you want Gonzaga to lose their chance at an at-large bid.
There are a few games of interest tomorrow (about as many as today), so I'll update again in the morning. Wednesday should be a pretty huge day of movement on the bubble, so that night's slate of games should have a lot to watch.
As a side note, I'm no expert bracketologist, so if you think I have something wrong, let me know in the comments.
It was a great weekend for Michigan hockey. A sweep at Northern, combined with Notre Dame’s loss to Western on Saturday, gave Michigan the CCHA regular-season title. So now what? Well, Michigan is now the top seed in the CCHA tournament and likely awaits the winner of Ohio State and Lake Superior. Michigan gets the lowest seed remaining in the quarterfinals, but Bowling Green is not much of a threat to win anything, and Michigan State has to travel up to Alaska in their playoff matchup (enjoy the long flight, Sparties), so it is likely that Michigan will face the Lakers (who they swept earlier in the year) or the Buckeyes (against whom they are 3-1, with the loss coming in Columbus in OT). OSU had a win and a tie against Lake Superior last weekend at home, but these games will be in Sault Ste. Marie. Since OSU is 6-10-1 on the road this year, this could go either way. The big upside from Michigan getting the top seed (other than the nice banner in Yost) is getting to avoid Notre Dame or Miami until the finals of the CCHA tournament.
Meanwhile, around college hockey, Merrimack got swept (crushed, really) by Maine, allowing Michigan to flip its comparison with Merrimack and move up to a solo fourth in the Pairwise rankings. (For a note on how the Pairwise works, see last week’s update.) Michigan is in the driver’s seat for the fourth spot in the Pairwise and the #1 seed hat goes along with it.
Can Michigan stay there? First, they have to win the CCHA tournament. A loss can knock Michigan down real fast, especially if that loss is to ND. So let’s assume that Michigan wins out. Michigan can afford to lose one comparison, as long as that comparison is not against Denver, if they want to keep a #1 seed. The teams to watch are those near the TUC cliff (especially Ohio State, Michigan State, Bemidji State, Minnesota State, and Alaska-Anchorage), along with Boston College, Denver, and Merrimack. Let’s look at how each could affect matters:
Teams near the TUC cliff: Michigan is 2-2 against MSU and 3-1 against OSU. Neither are a TUC right now, but both are very close. Ideally, OSU would sweep the series with the Lakers then get swept by us. That might be enough to have OSU end the season above the .500 mark in RPI, and allow us to use what would then be a 5-1 record against them for the Pairwise. MSU has to go to Alaska in the CCHA playoffs, where they just were last week. If they don’t win that series, they stay below the cliff. If they do sweep Alaska, then they will play Michigan, and a sweep by Michigan in that case would keep MSU above the cliff. However, their record against Michigan would then be something that Michigan would want to keep (4-2), so they are actually less important than OSU. So you are rooting hard for OSU (ewwww, icky) to sweep this weekend. Bemidji State is an interesting team, as they have a 3-0-1 record against UNO but were 0-2 against Denver. Whether they stay in the TUC field has a big effect on those comparisons. They play @ N. Dakota today, have two against Minnesota next weekend, then will be a 9, 10, or 11 seed in the WCHA tournament. Root hard for Bemidji, because if they fall out of the TUC field, we lose the comparison with UNO. Alaska-Anchorage is 1-1 against UNO, but 0-3-1 against Denver. Getting them out of the TUC field would go a long way toward locking up our comparison with Denver. However, Minnesota State is also 0-3-1 against Denver and 0-2 against UNO. UAA plays at Minnesota State next weekend, then both will be on the road in the WCHA playoffs. Root for a sweep either way to get one of these teams outside the TUC field.
Denver: Denver is currently our main competition for the last #1 seed. If they win the WCHA tournament, they’ll get it with a better RPI. Of course, they’ll have to get past North Dakota and some other very good teams, but if they win out, they’ll get a #1 seed. They play St. Cloud State next weekend at home, then will likely be the #2 seed in the WCHA playoffs. Root against them as though they were the lovechild of Sparty and Brutus Buckeye.
Merrimack: The comparison with Merrimack is very close, and will come down to the teams’ TUC records. Merrimack has only played 13 TUCs to Michigan’s 20 (at the moment), and Michigan has a slight lead. It’s close enough that, when MSU was above the TUC cliff for about 3 hours last night, that hurt Michigan’s TUC record enough to flip the comparison. Since the only TUCs left for either team are in their respective tournaments, it will come down to those games. Merrimack will draw either Maine or Northeastern in the quarterfinals, then probably either New Hampshire or BC in the semis. If Michigan wins out, Merrimack would have to win the Hockey East tournament to flip this comparison.
Boston College: Flipping this comparison would give Michigan a little breathing room for the #1 seed. BC has a big home-and-home series with UNH this weekend that will decide who wins the Hockey East regular-season championship. A split in that series would leave the two teams tied in TUC record, so it would come down to the respective tournaments and which teams end up as TUCs. The good news is that I think BC and Merrimack would face off in the Hockey East semis, so someone has to lose that game, and if Michigan wins out, that would mean that only one of these teams could end up ahead of us. But root for UNH this weekend.
Rooting guide: You want as much of the following to happen as possible:
OSU to sweep Lake Superior. If rooting for OSU causes nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or a rash in a sensitive area, don't worry, this is normal.
Anyone who plays Denver to beat them.
UNH to get at least 3 points from BC.
Merrimack to not win the Hockey East tournament.
Bemidji State to win a game or two
A sweep in the Minnesota State-UAA series, and then for both teams to do well in the WCHA tournament.
Finally, root against Michigan State. It probably won’t matter all that much, but it will make you happy.
After winning today against Minnesota we hold on to our NCAA Tournament hopes (despite what ESPN might think). As we’ve known for a while, beating MSU is a must for this discussion to matter. If that happens, we need to win 1-2 games in the conference tournament to get into serious tournament conversations.
There’s already a thread about whether we could get in with just one win in the BTT, but that thread is lacking a critical piece of information – WHO would we play? I started to investigate this and it revealed a very interesting scenario.
Right now we know who the top three teams are (OSU, Purdue, Wisconsin). We also know who the bottom four teams are (Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana). At this point those seven spots aren’t really likely to change barring some upsets in the final week. But the middle four spots are totally up for grabs among Michigan, MSU, Illinois, and Penn State.
Here’s the remaining schedules and a prediction to go with them for the four bubble teams:
Michigan State (16-11, 8-7)
- Purdue (Loss)
- Iowa (Win)
- @ Michigan (Loss)
- FINAL RECORD = 17-13, 9-9
Penn State (15-12, 8-8)
- OSU (Loss)
- @ Minnesota (Win)
- FINAL RECORD = 16-13, 9-9
Illinois (18-11, 8-8)
- @ Purdue (Loss)
- Indiana (Win)
- FINAL RECORD = 19-12, 9-9
Michigan (18-12, 8-9)
- MSU (Win)
- FINAL RECORD = 19-12, 9-9
Those results, with all favored teams winning, conclude in a 4-way tie for fourth place. Now let’s examine what this would mean for the tournament seeding, since the top five teams get a bye.
According to the tournament’s website, in the event of a multi-team tie you have to look at the teams’ records against the other teams that are tied. So let’s look at that list again, with the head-to-head record of the four teams:
- MSU: 2-4
- PSU: 2-4
- Illinois: 3-2
- Michigan: 4-1
This would mean that Michigan and Illinois would get the byes while MSU and PSU would have to play on the first day. This is a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand it gives Michigan a better chance to make a run with one fewer game to play. It also gives Michigan the chance to play a better team in their first game to improve their resume, in this case Illinois.
On the other hand, Michigan doesn’t get to play one of the bottom feeders in the opening round to get their 20thwin. In some ways I think I would prefer to end up in the #6-7 spot to get another game against Iowa or Indiana. I’m curious what everyone thinks about this.
In the end what matters is beating MSU and winning at least the first game in the tournament, likely against Illinois. In the scenario described here that would put us in the semi-finals with 20 wins, a 9-9 fourth place conference finish, a 5-1 record against the other conference bubble teams, and a top-ten strength of schedule. Even with just that one BTT win it would be pretty hard to keep us out of the tournament with that resume.
Go Blue – Beat MSU!
I'm not an expert on bracketology, but I think we should be rooting against Illinois and Penn State in every game while we actually (*gulp*) root for MSU to win both of their other games. They would end up ahead of us in the standings, but we'd get a bigger resume boost for beating them.
Since my part of the Worst State Ever was covered in a blizzard this morning, I had a chance to go ahead with more comparisons of Michigan to other bubble teams (previous comparisons included Virginia Tech and Butler). Today I’ll look at two teams that ESPN has as a 10 seed, above the “last four in”, and another that is squarely on the bubble, a 12 seed in ESPN’s bracket. Warning: this is long, and a product of me not having to work today.
First comparison: the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga is 19-9 and tied for first in the West Coast Conference with St. Mary’s (another bubble team). I chose Gonzaga for a couple reasons: first, unlike St. Mary’s, their schedule strength is at least comparable to Michigan’s; second, they should now be above the last four in by virtue of their in last night at St. Mary’s.
A word on St. Mary’s: with three straight losses in the last 8 days (including RPI #317 San Diego), the Gaels’ resume has taken a big hit; Somehow, Joe Lunardi still has them as a 10 seed, but they are 3-6 against the top 100, with two of their three wins against the #63 and #99 teams. Their lone big win was against St. John’s, which is a huge win, but it was also the first D-I game of the season for both teams. With that record against good teams, and a loss to the #317 team last week, I don’t see how they make the tournament without winning their conference tournament, especially since the loss to Gonzaga last night dropped them ten spots in the RPI. Even if they make the WCC finals and lose to Gonzaga again, they’ll be in the mid-50’s RPI at best, with another loss on their resume. Gonzaga, however, has enough top-100 wins that they should be able to sustain a loss in the conference tournament finals to St. Mary’s.
Here are the wins and losses for each team. The only common opponent is Illinois, who beat both Michigan and Gonzaga, though Michigan’s game was on the road and was much closer. I again listed Gonzaga’s losses next to Michigan’s worst nine losses, which helps to make up for the difference in schedule difficulty.
RPI Team RPI Team
24 Xavier 36 @ Michigan St.
51 vs. Marquette 43 Harvard
56 @ St. Mary’s 61 Oakland
57 Oklahoma St. 62 @ Penn St.
83 vs. Baylor 62 Penn St.
97 @ Portland 65 @ Clemson
97 Portland 98 Northwestern
107 IUPUI 111 Utah
121 San Francisco 172 @ Iowa
162 Santa Clara 172 Iowa
228 @ Pepperdine 186 Indiana
228 Pepperdine 250 Bowling Green
246 Lafayette 252 Bryant
249 @ Wake Forest 273 Gardner-Webb
278 @ Loyola Marymount 279 N.C. Central
278 Loyola Marymount 317 S.C. Upstate
315 San Diego
318 Eastern Washington
RPI Team RPI Team
2 @ Ohio St.
2 Ohio St.
4 San Diego St. 8 Purdue
10 @ Notre Dame 13 @ Wisconsin
28 vs. Kansas St. 13 Wisconsin
32 Memphis 17 vs. Syracuse
38 vs. Illinois 38 @ Illinois
56 St. Mary’s 47 Minnesota
87 @ Washington St. 77 vs UTEP
121 @ San Francisco 98 @ Northwestern
162 @ Santa Clara 186 @ Indiana
What stands out to me after doing this comparison is how equal these two resumes are. Gonzaga has a win against a top 25 team in Xavier, but Michigan has more impressive road wins and better wins near the bottom of the top 100. Gonzaga has three additional wins, but they played four more teams with an RPI above 200. Each have three losses outside the RPI top 50 (none at home). The real difference between these schedules is that Michigan played Kansas once and Ohio State twice, while Gonzaga played Eastern Washington, Southern, and Lafayette. Also, Michigan’s losses were to better teams.
Next comparison: The Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama has an RPI of 78 (Michigan’s is 66) with a schedule strength of 139 (Michigan’s is 21). They are 11-2 in the absolutely terrible SEC West, and 8-6 out of conference. Bizarrely, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has them above his last four in as a #10 seed. It’s not just Lunardi, by the way; the Bracket Matrix shows that 36 of 68 brackets have Alabama in the field at the moment. Here is the comparison between Michigan and Alabama, comparing Alabama’s 8 losses to Michigan’s 8 worst:
RPI Team RPI Team
16 Kentucky 36 @ Michigan St.
29 @ Tennessee 43 Harvard
73 Mississippi 61 Oakland
105 Arkansas 62 @ Penn St.
116 South Carolina 62 Penn St.
120 Lipscomb 65 @ Clemson
144 @ Mississippi St. 98 Northwestern
144 Mississippi St. 111 Utah
205 @ LSU 172 @ Iowa
205 LSU 172 Iowa
228 Pepperdine 186 Indiana
231 SE Louisiana 250 Bowling Green
255 Troy 252 Bryant
264 South Alabama 273 Gardner-Webb
271 @ Auburn 279 N.C. Central
271 Auburn 317 S.C. Upstate
297 Alabama A&M
309 Florida A&M
RPI Team RPI Team
2 @ Ohio St.
2 Ohio St.
8 @ Purdue 13 @ Wisconsin
22 @ Vanderbilt 13 Wisconsin
57 vs. Oklahoma St. 17 vs. Syracuse
99 vs. Seton Hall 38 @ Illinois
105 @ Arkansas 47 Minnesota
119 vs. St. Peter’s 77 vs UTEP
143 @ Providence 98 @ Northwestern
162 vs. Iowa 186 @ Indiana
This just doesn’t make any sense to me. There is simply no good reason to rank Alabama ahead of Michigan. Four losses outside the top 100, another at #99. A loss to Iowa, who Michigan beat twice. This is simply an example of someone overrating one or two “marquee” wins and ignoring the overall resume. The biggest marquee win, by the way, is over a Kentucky team that is 1-6 on the road in the SEC (Kentucky also lost road games to Georgia, Ole Miss, and Arkansas, and only managed to beat S. Carolina). Their biggest out-of-conference win is at home against mighty Lipscomb. This is not a tournament team, and the SEC is not worthy of having six teams make the tournament.
Last comparison: the UAB Blazers. UAB has an RPI of 34 and SOS of 55. They are 19-7 overall, 9-4 in Conference USA. They are 7-6 against the RPI top 100, but 0-5 against the top 50. Lunardi has them as a 12 seed and one of the last four in.
RPI Team RPI Team
58 VCU 36 @ Michigan St.
59 @ Marshall 43 Harvard
59 Marshall 61 Oakland
69 @ UCF 62 @ Penn St.
69 UCF 62 Penn St.
77 UTEP 65 @ Clemson
80 Kent St. 98 Northwestern
105 @ Arkansas 111 Utah
132 @ E. Carolina 172 @ Iowa
147 George Washington 172 Iowa
173 Rice 186 Indiana
201 SMU 250 Bowling Green
221 Middle Tenn. St. 252 Bryant
240 @ Tulane 273 Gardner-Webb
255 @ Troy 279 N.C. Central
264 South Alabama 317 S.C. Upstate
297 Alabama A&M
307 SE Missouri St.
336 Jacksonville St.
RPI Team RPI Team
2 @ Ohio St.
2 Ohio St.
13 @ Wisconsin
5 @ Duke 13 Wisconsin
32 @ Memphis 17 vs. Syracuse
32 Memphis 38 @ Illinois
39 @ Georgia 47 Minnesota
40 Southern Miss 77 vs UTEP
91 @ Tulsa 98 @ Northwestern
150 @ Arizona St. 186 @ Indiana
The way I have this listed makes it look like this comparison is pretty even, maybe with UAB having a slight advantage. However, I did compare their losses to Michigan’s 7 worst losses, so that distorts things a little. Michigan is 2-9 against the top 50, compared to 0-5 for UAB. Michigan is 5-2 against the RPI 51-100, compared to 7-1 for UAB. The difference in schedule strength makes comparisons difficult, since seven of Michigan’s games are against the top 20, compared to only one for UAB. However, they have about the same number of games against teams ranked 26-100. Against those teams, Michigan is 7-4, and UAB is 7-5, with Michigan having better wins and UAB having better losses when going by RPI. However, the RPI numbers in Conference USA are a little inflated, as #40 Southern Miss is not on the bubble at all, whereas #38 Illinois is fairly safely in the tournament unless they implode in the next two weeks. UAB only has one win over a team anywhere near the tournament (VCU, in Lunardi’s “next four out”). Among Michigan’s wins are the win at MSU (in the tournament), against Harvard (in if they beat Princeton, and currently about a 13 seed), and at Clemson, who is equivalent to VCU in bubble status. Based on better wins, the comparison should go to Michigan.
Again, the point of these comparisons is not to suggest that Michigan belongs in the NCAA field. However, it does show how close Michigan is, not just to a team that is on the bubble, but to a team that may be above the last four in. The bubble is so large and so fluid at this point that two good wins (like beating Minnesota and MSU) or a single not-so-good loss (like BC losing to Miami (YTM)) can move a team up or down 5 to 10 spots in the famed S-curve. We don't need to (and really can't) match the record of the 2008-09 team, we just need a few more good wins. If Michigan wins their last two, a win in the BTT quarterfinals should be enough to get to the NCAA tournament.