Mike Lantry, 1972
When I close my eyes, I see Michigan basketball players bricking three-point shots. Over and over and over again.
I can’t say anything about last night’s game that others have not already said. Brian has thrown in the towel regarding an NCAA tournament bid. Dylan at UMHoops has the breakdown of one of the worst offensive performances of the season. Meanwhile, Tim at Varsity Blue corrects a flaw in the BTN analysis, while pointing out any NCAA bid will come down to home games next month against MSU and Purdue.
I don’t think all is lost for an NCAA bid. Michigan is going through the hardest patch of their season. Beginning with last night’s game, the team was staring at the likelihood of dropping three of its next four games. When that stretch is over, Michigan won’t be in anybody’s mock bracket, but they’ll have plenty of games over the season’s final month to spruce their resume up and buck for a spot in the final field.
Michigan’s possible bid into the Dance will come down to defending home turf in the month of February against the likes of Penn St, Michigan St, Purdue and Minnesota. Win those games and steal a road win at, for example, Iowa or Northwestern and it will hard to deny Michigan a bid. Any combination of five to six more regular season wins ought to do the trick. With the Big 10 as well regarded now as its been in years, there will be impressive wins in that bunch that would only add to Michigan’s nice looking list of wins already.
A road map to a bid exists. The question is do the slumping Wolverines have the moxie to follow it? In the meantime, the best we can do is hope that fellow bubble teams continue to crash and burn. Tonight’s action does not bring much opportunity for that, but there are still games—including showdowns in the Big 10 and Pac 10—that will impact Michigan’s resume and ultimate RPI numbers.
Hokies look to play Giant Killer……again
Thanks to a week that included road upsets at Wake Forest and Miami, Virginia Tech has begun to make appearances in mock brackets. The Hokies earn a 9-seed from ESPN and an 8-seed from Rivals. With a fairly manageable schedule the next couple of weeks, tonight’s contest against Clemson (7pm ESPN2, Clemson -1) looms as a big contest in Blacksburg . A win might cement their position and only a February collapse could keep them out of the field.
The Hokies have earned a defensive reputation since joining the ACC, but it’s their offense that propelling their latest winning streak. Behind the run is one the league’s most underrated players Malcolm Delaney, another in a long line of Baltimore cagers who have made an impact.
Clemson appears to be more of the real deal than in recent years. One reason is their improved free throw shooting, which might not be the worst in the ACC for the first time in four seasons. As a result, they’ve been much better in close games. That might come in handy tonight against the Hokies, who seem to do nothing but play close games. Clemson fans appear worried about this game as they’ve seen this kind of Hokie surge before.
Illini try Blackjack Gophers
Has Illinois really won 20 in a row over the Minnesota? Yikes! That dates back to the 1990s. Tonight’s matchup (7 pm, BTN, Illini -1)features a pair of 17-3 teams. Crunching numbers, one Gopher observer is not so optimistic that streak ends tonight.
The Gophers are always strong at The Barn, and, despite the streak, Illini boosters aren’t taking this game for granted. The Gophers have lost two in a row at home, burning some of my money in the process. Illinois, meanwhile, is 11-4-1 against the number, including 5-1-1 against the Big 10. Vegas has made the Illini a slight 1-point road favorite tonight, in a series where the favored team has covered 10 out of 13 times. Hmm, intriguing. I know the Illini are a good team. I am not sure how good the Gophers are. Losing their 21st straight to the Illini would be bad news for the Gophers. Losing Tubby Smith as coach would be worse
NoCal versus SoCal
Northern California meets Southern California as the Pac 10 round robin brings us a series on Golden State battles over the next 48 hours. Tonight Cal plays at UCLA and Stanford plays at USC. On Saturday, the opponents flip flop. All four of the games ought to have some lingering aspects on the bubble and Michigan’s resume.
First place is on the line when the Bears and Bruins hook up tonight (10:30, FSN, UCLA -9.5). Michigan’s resume needs all the polish possible, so Wolverine fans hope UCLA has found some answers to the problems plaguing them during their recent slide. For the first time in a long time, the Bruins might be vulnerable in the Pac 10 race. Cal is having a resurgent season under former Stanford Mike Montgomery. One reason for their turnaround is this freshmen find from south of the border.
In the other contest between the Trojans and Cardinal (10:30, no TV, USC -6), it’s hard to discern who exactly Wolverine fans should be cheering against. Neither Stanford nor USC appear in any of the primary mock brackets. Both, however, are among the final groups of teams left out of the mocks. As I see it, Michigan benefits if the both teams lose on Saturday, making this particular game less relevant. The Trojans expect to get some healthy bodies back for tonight’s affair.
Showdown in Pacific Northwest
Cal and UCLA is not the only showdown with first place on the line along the left coast this evening. St. Mary’s travels to Gonzaga (11pm, ESPN2, Zags -9) tonight with the top spot in the West Coast Conference on the line. Little Bubble impact will be felt, however, as both teams are ranked in the top 25 and expected to get bids into the dance come Selection Sunday. But, its as big a rivalry as you’ll find among the mid major conferences. Night owls should find plenty fun watching and here’s a primer from a Zag perspective to help track the action.
Also of note tonight is Alabama at Arkansas. The Hogs have played themselves out of the field with a 0-4 SEC start. They need to close with an 8-4 record just to even have bubble hopes. Meanwhile, in Tucson, Arizona hosts Washington. Hard to believe the fall the Wildcats have taken this year. They’re 2-5 in league play and need a major run over the next month just to put them in consideration. They’re an underdog on their home floor, and, no, the person in this poster is not me.