So here's a thing: there is a big ol' discrepancy between various bracketology attempts when it comes to Michigan. I don't think I've seen such wide splits during this pleasant recent era when the tourney is a given unless the basketball gods hew down your two best players. And I'm not talking about randoms on Bracket Matrix:
- Howie Schwab, FOX: 5 seed.
- Joe Lunardi, ESPN: 6 seed.
- Jerry Palm, CBS: 8 seed, fragile enough to be mentioned on bubble watch.
- Bracketville, reigning Matrix champion: 8-seed.
- Matrix writ large: 9-seed.
- Crashing The Dance, algorithm: 11 seed.
I think the main discrepancy here is between people looking at overall strength of record calculations and those looking at the NCAA's teamsheets. Michigan has a Quadrant One problem. Take it from Palm:
The Wolverines have a poor non-conference schedule and only two quadrant 1 wins, but neither of those things can be addressed tonight.
It doesn't take long to figure out why the first part of that might be the case:
Michigan's quadrant one games are
- @ Kenpom #4 Purdue
- @ #6 MSU
- @ #10 UNC
- @ #11 OSU
- @ #52 Nebraska
- @ #45 Texas
- home vs #4 Purdue
IE, five games against top 10-ish competition, four of them on the road, and just two in the more winnable section of the bin. So if you're looking solely at the bin that doesn't look too great. It looks significantly better if you take each individual game and pile them into a Strength Of Record calculation, as ESPN does. ESPN ranks Michigan 17th in SOR, i.e. the first five seed. The AP poll, which is sort of a folk SOR calculation, is a seed more skeptical but more or less agrees.
So if you're looking at the worse and more arbitrary bins and eyeballing it, if you're looking at basic nonconference SOS measures that don't know that playing 200 is exactly like playing 350 if you're tourney-level, Michigan doesn't look too good. If you're trying to sum up Michigan's season without the bins, they look a bit better. Thus a couple of votes for 5-6 seeds and a general 8-9 malaise.
The good news is that Michigan has three relatively easy Q1 games to finish the year: home against OSU and on the road against Penn State and Maryland. Those are 58%, 38%, and 41% shots per Kenpom, much better than the large majority of their Q1 games to date. (They had a 15% shot at MSU, a 10% shot at Purdue, and a 20% shot at UNC, for instance.) If they could pick two of those off and end up 4-6 against Q1 teams, hopefully their high degree of difficulty in those games—7 of which would be on the road against top 50 teams—would matter to someone and they could get into that 5-6 range the optimistic folks currently have them in.
FWIW, Alex played around with Bart Torvik's Teamcast a bit. Findings:
- Winning out (ie: also winning the BTT) gets Michigan a three seed(!).
- Losing out puts them in Dayton as the last team in the field.
- A reasonably optimistic end of season featuring two wins in Michigan's final three games and a 2-1 record in the BTT nets them that 6.
- Going 1-2 down the stretch with reasonably optimistic BTT gets them a 9 seed.
So there is a great deal left to play for here.