Hoops Opponent Watch: Outright Edition

Submitted by BiSB on March 5th, 2014 at 11:11 PM

Non-Conference Opponents


RPI Effect Only Teams

If you care, Michigan played the following teams: UMass-Lowell (10-18), Houston Baptist (6-23), South Carolina State (9-19), Coppin State (10-19), Long Beach State (13-15), and Charlotte (15-13). But while I don’t want to say these games didn’t MATTER, they didn’t, you know, matter. Except the Charlotte game, because blerg. Michigan’s fate will be determines by larger narratives. Not many people are going to hammer too hard on RPI when you’re talking the difference between a 2 seed and a 3 seed. So, let us move along.

Big Sorts of Teams

Iowa State (22-7, 10-7 Big 12)

This week: Lost @ Kansas State (80-73); Lost @ Baylor (74-61)

Michigan probably moved ahead of Iowa State for good by virtue of Iowa State’s rough week. Bracketmatrix has them as the last 3 seed, it’s unlikely a home win over bubble team Oklahoma State (side note: how did THAT happen?) would get them past Michigan.

Florida State (18-11, 9-8 ACC)

This week: Beat Georgia Tech (81-71); Won @ Boston College (74-70)

Florida State met two necessary conditions for an NCAA bid this week. Losing to either of those teams would’ve probably been the end of things for the Seminoles. The good news is that Syracuse also seems very beatable, so it’s possible for Florida State to close strong. The problem is that now a win over Syracuse wouldn’t bring the cache it would have two or three weeks ago, so they might still need to do some work in the conference tourney.

From a Michigan standpoint, though, FSU doesn’t really matter all that much anymore. No one cares about your 6th best win, and pretty much Michigan's entire seeding case rests in its conference schedule. So if you’d really like to see some more #Nebrasketball, you might be hoping they drop their last couple of games to clear some room at the bubble.

#4 Dook (23-7, 12-5 ACC)

This week: Lost @ Wake Forest (YTWF) (82-72)

This was a gift on a number of fronts. Duke’s loss potentially leaves some wiggle room for Michigan to move up to a 2-seed. Also, Duke’s loss was a loss for Duke, which is a win for Not Duke. We are Not Duke. So, let’s compare the two teams right now:

  Record KenPom Losses (KP ranks) Best wins (KP) Is Duke?
MICHIGAN 22-7 10 1, 8, 11, 12, 28, 69, 182 11, 12, 13, 17, 17 No
DUKE 23-7 8 1, 6, 14, 23, 51, 92, 113 2, 10, 14, 15, 25 Yes

I dunno, that’s close.

#3 Arizona (28-2, 15-2 PAC 12)

This week: Beat Stanford (79-66), Beat Arizona State (74-69)

It's hard to blame Arizona for a less-than-dominant performance against ASU. They'd clinched pretty much everything there was to clinch (PAC 12 title, #1 seed in the PAC 12 tourney, likely #1 seed, helped RichRod kill the 10 second rule), and sometimes it's hard to get up for games that don't much matter. 

One potential cause for concern is depth. Arizona is really only rolling about 6 guys deep, which is working fine for them now, but if they run up against a team that draws a lot of fouls, it could be an issue. But no, Michigan isn't one of those teams.

Stanford (18-11, 9-8 PAC 12)

This week: Lost to Arizona (79-66); Lost to Colorado (59-56)

According to Bill Walton (who called the Stanford/Colorado game), Stanford's loss is a lot like the Punic War if it was fought by Muppets; you're not sure where they got the weapons, but you can't expect them to be back in time for lunch.

I'm not sure exactly what he meant by that, but Stanford's bid is in real trouble. Bracketmatrix had them as a 10-seed before the loss to the Buffs, so they still have some work to do. And not that it matters, but it would be nice for Michigan to have at least ONE win over a tournament team from its non-conference schedule.

[AFTER THE JUMP: Michigan, and all the teams that finished behind Michigan because Michigan finished ahead of everyone who isn't Michigan]

In Which I Rank the B1G According to KenPom


1) Michigan (22-7, 14-3 B1G)

This Week: Beat Minnesota (66-56); Beat Illinois with what appeared to be a folding chair


Thing They Are Like:


2) Wisconsin (25-5, 13-5 B1G)

This week: Beat Penn State (71-66); Beat Purdue (76-70)

Thing: The purpose of this column is typically to point out amusing or interesting tidbits about Michigan’s opponents. But I just spent like 20 minutes looking through their game stats, individual stats, team stats, KenPom numbers, and pretty much anything else I could find, and you know what? There isn’t a single interesting thing about Wisconsin, and there isn’t a single amusing thing about Wisconsin.

Other thing: Amusing or no, Wisconsin has established itself along with Michigan as the best Big Ten teams. They’re looking at a 2-seed, and they probably deserve it. Bastards.

Thing They Are Like: Golfing with an 86 year old man. He plays slow, he doesn’t wow you with any part of his game, but he puts the ball in the fairway, and damned if he didn’t get you by five strokes at the end of the round. Also he smells funny.

3) Iowa (25-5, 12-5 B1G)

This week: Lost to Indiana (93-86); Beat Purdue (83-76)

Thing: Iowa has taken a decidedly more ehfuggit approach to defense in the last couple of weeks. They gave up 79 to Wisconsin, 95 to Minnesota, 93 to Indiana, and 76 to Purdue. They would have given up more to Purdue if Ronnie Johnson hadn’t turned into a reverse Hungry Hungry Hippo with 7 mostly brutal turnovers. Brian pointed out last week that this trend is largely the result of Iowa desperately trying to get out and run, but either way the results haven’t been pretty.

Other Thing: Iowa gave up 30 points to Will Sheehey, who in his 700 previous games over his first 26 seasons had never cracked 22 points in a game.

Thing They Are Like: Wait, Iowa is still a thing?

4) Ohio State (22-8, 9-8 B1G)

This week: Lost @ Penn State (65-63); Lost @ Indiana (72-64)

Thing: Woof. Ohio State was swept by Penn State for the first time since 1998, and followed it up by getting handled easily by a Vonleh-less Indiana squad. Aaron Craft was more aggressive offensively than he has been in some time on Sunday, but shot just 2-11 from the field. As a team, the Buckeyes had 14 turnovers against the Hoosiers, and had just 5 assists on 25 field goals. Ohio State as a team went 0-11 from deep against the Hoosiers, and missed 14 dunks or layups. So, if you can’t shoot from close, and you can’t shoot from far, and you can’t pass to other people to do those things…

Other Thing: How close was this team to not making the NCAA tournament? They played exactly one solid stretch of basketball lasting a full four days, notching road wins at Wisconsin and Iowa at the beginning of February. Outside of that, they don’t have a single top-50 win. Had they played a real non-conference slate (a la Michigan or Wisconsin), it’s really not hard to draw up a scenario in which Ohio State is playing for its tournament life on Sunday against Michigan State.

Thing They Are Like:

5) Michigan State (22-7, 11-5 B1G)

This week: Lost to Illinois (53-46)

Thing: Quando dio vuole castigarci ci manda quello che desideriamo.

Translation: welcome back, Branden Dawson.

Other Thing: Michigan State is out of the Big Ten title chase (because HEY MICHIGAN WON THE OUTRIGHT TITLE), but they have plenty to play for. They still haven’t locked up a first round bye in the BTT, and their NCAA seeding is a questionable proposition. Also, they might want to figure out what in the Sam Hill they are doing on the basketball court, and how they can be less bad at those things.

Thing They Are Like: A thing that was once very proud, but has since experienced a precipitous and rapid descent. Someone once told me that those two events tend to unfold together, and in that order.

6) Minnesota (18-12, 7-10 B1G)

This Week: Lost @ Michigan (66-56)

Thing: No one knows how many more wins Minnesota needs to secure an NCAA berth, but they sure as hell have to beat Penn State on Sunday. That would get them to 19-12 (8-10), and a win in the Big Ten Tournament gets them to 20 wins. Lose to Penn State, though, and they’ll need at least two wins in the BTT, and they are a combined 2-6 against their potential quarterfinal opponents (Michigan, MSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska), and their best win away from the Barn this year was at #89 Richmond, so who wants odds.

And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for these meddling/levitating kids [Upchurch]

Other Thing: Minnesota has taken over the cellar in terms of defensive efficiency in conference play.

Thing They Are Like: The villain in a Scooby Doo episode. At the end, they pull the mask off Richard Pitino and… “TUBBY SMITH"???”

7) Nebraska (18-11, 10-7 B1G)

This week: Beat Northwestern (54-47); Won @ Indiana (70-60)

Thing: Nebrasketball lives! By knocking off Indiana, Nebraska keeps their NCAA hopes very much alive. The issue is that despite having 10 wins in conference, their schedule was… friendly. Their single plays were Wisconsin, MSU, Iowa, and Minnesota, and they lost both matchups with Michigan. They also didn’t beat anyone of note in the non-conference schedule. Bottom line is that they probably need at least one more win.

Thing they are like: The bearer of the hopes and dreams of thousands of loyal Americans who crave more Nebrasketball.



8) Indiana (17-13, 7-10 B1G)

This week: Beat Ohio State (82-74); Lost to Nebraska (70-60)



Other Thing: Nah, let’s focus on the first Thing for a while.

Actual Other Thing: Yogi Ferrell shot 1-10 from deep against Nebraska. If he's gonna do that agaist Michigan, or if Vonleh doesn't play, Indiana could be in trouble. If both happen... oh, god, I've pooped myself.

Thing They Are Like:


9) Illinois (17-13, 6-11 B1G)

This week: Beat Michigan State (53-46); Lost to Michigan (OMG-WTF)

Thing that will be a Thing all year: Illinois was ranked two months ago.

This is usually a point made to point out how much Illinois has collapsed this year, but it also underlines the point that Illinois was theoretically dangerous. They won three in a row over three potential NCAA tournament teams, holding each of them under 50 points. They had the #15 defense in the country.

This is the team Michigan just smashed into tiny, tiny pieces. Beilein uber alles.

Other Thing: Counterfactuals are fun.

Thing They Are Like: Ash. Very, very fine ash.

10) Penn State (14-15, 5-11 B1G)

This week: Beat Ohio State (65-63); Lost to Wisconsin (71-66)

Thing: This was never going to be a good year for Penn State, and it hasn’t been a good year for Penn State. But by sweeping Ohio State they secured their bright spot for the season and got the chance to rush the court, so good for them. They also avenged their football team a little bit.

They ALMOST found a way to knock off Wisconsin on Sunday, which would have given them the mythical “momentum heading into the off-season” that isn’t really a thing, but they came up a few points short because they kept leaving Josh Gasser and Ben Brust open.

Thing They Are Like: A school that really, really doesn't understand what a "right to privacy" means.

11) Purdue (15-15, 5-11 B1G)

This week: Lost @ Iowa (83-76); Lost @ Wisconsin

Thing: Hey, look Purdue gave two other top-tied Big Ten teams a decent contest. Good for them. I don't ever want to see them again.


Thing They Are Like: A bad team that somehow plays Michigan closely every time out. Sorry, there isn't much of a metaphor there. I just don't like thinking about Purdue.

12) Northwestern (12-17, 5-11 B1G)

This week: Lost @ Nebraska (54-47)

Thing: Alas, Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage has fully turned back into a Sanjay Lumpkin. They’ve lost six straight games, and with only Penn State and Purdue left on the schedule, they are pretty much out of chances for any more memorable wins. There’s always the chance they catch lightning in a bottle in the BTT, but if they’re still playing basketball on Friday I’ll be surprised.

Thing They Are Like:


Hey, Look, it’s March


Wisconsin (#2), Michigan (#2-3), Michigan State (#4), Iowa (#7), Ohio State (#7)

Cruisin’ on Fumes

Minnesota (#12)

I Want To Believe

Nebraska (Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight on the bubble; last 4 in/first 4 out)

If They Hit the Womp Rat-Sized Thermal Exhaust Vent


Lovely Parting Gifts:

Illinois, Purdue, Penn State, Northwestern



Your rooting interests are simple: you don’t really have any. Michigan is the outright champion. The rest of this is just gravy, so feel free to choose your preferred flavor of gravy. My only recommendations are to root for Purdue to finish at #10 or #11 in the conference to keep them the everloving hell out of Michigan’s side of the BTT draw, and to root against Wisconsin so Michigan might pass them on the S-curve.


Penn State @ Northwestern, 7:00, ESPNU

Iowa @ Michigan State, 9:00, ESPN


Rewatch the Michigan/Illinois game on your DVR


Indiana @ Michigan, 6:00, ESPN

Illinois @ Iowa, 8:30, BTN


Northwestern @ Purdue, 12:00, BTN

Michigan State @ Ohio State, 4:30, CBS

Penn State @ Minnesota, 5:15, BTN

Wisconsin @ Nebraska, 7:30, BTN


DVR of the Michigan/Michigan State games


DVR of the Kansas Sweet 16 game


The Americans on FX is a pretty good show.



March 6th, 2014 at 10:04 AM ^

Winning the B1G outright has to count for something.  It goes back to the old SEC football argument.  Not good enough to win their conference, but  .....


March 6th, 2014 at 10:09 AM ^

Indiana has a lot of good wins, and if they beat us in Ann Arbor they'd have a real shot at the dance IMO. They've got a ton more to play for than we do. Game scares me.


March 6th, 2014 at 10:28 AM ^

Even if they beat Michigan, they'd be 18-14 with 11 losses in conference play, including losses to Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois, and Penn State, plus they beat absolutely no one in non-conference play (their only Top 200 wins were #89 Washington, #163 Stony Brook and #177 Oakland).

They need a miracle to get in. Probably several miracles.


March 6th, 2014 at 10:32 AM ^

I thought that too, until the latest version of bubble watch came out on ESPN.  Before  they played Nebraska, they apparently had no chance of a bid, unless it came via autobid.  After the loss, they certainly have no chance without a BIG tournament championship.  


Their non-conference schedule is rough.  The only two ranked teams they played out of conference (UConn and Cuse) they lost to.  Prior to the Nebraska, their RPI was in the high 80's I believe.

Yinka Double Dare

March 6th, 2014 at 10:37 AM ^

Indiana needed to beat Nebraska, beat Michigan, and then probably win at least two games in the BTT to have a shot at an at-large.  They lost to Nebraska. Their path to the tourney now rests on winning the BTT, making this game pretty much meaningless for them, so I wouldn't be surprised if Vonleh sat out again.

Yinka Double Dare

March 6th, 2014 at 10:39 AM ^

Has there ever been a game like Nebraska/Wisconsin this weekend where so many people want to see Nebraska win?  I mean, everyone can't stand Wisconsin basketball, and anyone who doesn't want to see Nebraska make the tournament is a blackhearted evil jackwagon.  And it's even in the Crapper Flatscreen Center, where Nebraska has been damn near unbeatable*

*does not apply to Michigan


March 6th, 2014 at 10:45 AM ^

"There isn’t a single interesting thing about Wisconsin, and there isn’t a single amusing thing about Wisconsin."

I dunno, having only two total losses despite five conference losses is pretty interesting.  And amusing.


March 6th, 2014 at 12:11 PM ^

Was that the strategy of our football offense last season?  We can't go forward, so we can't win, so we go negative, and if we get enough negative yards then the loss will turn into a negative loss and flips right around to a net win?

One other thing about the comparison you made:  The 86-year-old cuts you off in traffic, damn near kills everyone, has no awareness of the rules but never gets punished because he moves so slowly.


March 6th, 2014 at 11:33 AM ^

I think Michigan should be paying close attention to the Xavier - 'Nova game tonight.

Villanova seems like a very weak 2 seed to me. They have that early season, neutral sight, win against a very raw Kansas team (at the time) but have gotten dismantled by Creighton at home and away (Creighton is good - but stop getting blown out).

I think a loss at Xaiver could push Villanova from the 2 to the 3 and move Michigan up to a solid 2 position.


Blue Durham

March 6th, 2014 at 4:08 PM ^

Yeah, I could understand putting Iowa at #3 in the Big Ten if their record actually was 25-5 and 12-5, but that is Wisconsin's record. Iowa is 20-9 and 9-7 and is probably the 4th or 5th best team in the Big ten.

Wisconsin is not 13-5 in the Big Ten, they are 12-5 and still have a game left against Nebraska on Sunday.


March 6th, 2014 at 12:47 PM ^

I realize that we have not rooting interest in the B10 that isn't based on love or hate of other teams, but what about the non-conference teams?  Namely, we want Stanford/FSU to win everything, we don't care about Arizona, we're probably indifferent to ISU now that we're clearly ahead of them, and we want Dook to lose to help our seeding and because they're Dook. 


March 6th, 2014 at 12:54 PM ^

Conterfactuals ARE fun.  If you like history and want to spend hours upon hours noodling over questions like "what if Japan and succesfully invaded Hawaii in WWII" or "what if Kennedy had not been shot" or even "what if Picket's Charge" had been successful" read the book "What If".

I do believe the latest edition does consider the "what if Caris got the call" and the implications of that change.


March 6th, 2014 at 2:41 PM ^

1) In the extraordinarily unlikely event the Japanese mounted an invasion force big enough to take Oahu away from its U.S. garrison (BTW, it took them two tries to dislodge a much smaller Marine garrison on Wake Island that was totally isolated from any reinforcements or resupply; their jugle fighting doctrine was gold; their amphibious assault docrine sucked), they would have been utterly incapable of keeping their occupation force in supply.  They were at the absolute end of their logistical capability just holding on to what they took, and I have no idea how they would have supplied Midway if they had managed to take that.  Bottom line: Admiral Yamamoto was right, he ran wild for six months, but Japan had no answer for facing the U.S.'s industrial capacity.  They were screwed the moment they decided not to find a graceful way to back down in China.

2) Kennedy would have been regarded the same way that Johnson is regarded today--a well meaning pol whose domestic achievements were overshadowed by the fiasco in Vietnam.  Kennedy was an even more aggressive advocate of ant-communist counter-insurgency than Johnson was.  Robert McNamara and his whiz-kids were Kennedy's pick to run the Dept of Defense.  They would have recommended the exact same decisions to escalate that they sold to Johnson, and found a much more enthusiastic buyer in JFK.  And don't try to sell me that Kennedy would have been more competent and won the war by following one of the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps fantasy strategies (mobilize the Reserve and invade North Vietnam and any other place we have to invade to root them out [land war in Asia anyone?], bomb them to the stone age, and small teams in villages leading the locals in counter-insurgency, respectively)  We weren't going to win that war.  Kennedy rather than Johnson would have been caught by the splatter.

3) The Army of the Potomac would have fallen back a few miles to that lovely piece of defensive terrain that Gen Meade had picked out ahead of time, thinking the battle would occur there instead of Gettysburg.  They would have stood off the Army of Northern Virginia, who would have to retire to Virginia to cover the capitol from all the other troops that the Union had at its disposal.  No, Lee would not have been able to rout Meade even after a successful Pickett's charge.  Lee had no more fresh troops to press the advantage, and Meade had plenty of lightly engaged troops who could have covered his retreat.  Vicksburg would have still surrendered to Grant the day after Pickett's charge, and Lincoln would have likely recalled Grant to take command in the east even faster.  No, Britain and France would not have recognized the Confederacy even after a Confederate victory at Gettysburg; that was not happening after Lincoln issued the Emmancipation Proclamation.  No, don't try to tell me how a battle ending on 3 Jluy 1863 was going to influence the result of elections in November 1864.  See the pentultimate paragraph for (1) above, and substitute "Confederacy" for "Japan."

Yes, historical counter-factuals are fun.