Punching The Ticket: Still Bubble-Watching

Submitted by Ace on February 25th, 2016 at 4:01 PM

M's narrow loss to Maryland leaves them with work to do. [Paul Sherman]

When we last checked in on Michigan's NCAA Tournament chances, the Wolverines needed to take care of business against Northwestern and perhaps add another quality win to feel secure about their standing heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan accomplished part one last night, which has kept them on the right side of the bubble; they're still searching for that statement win.

The resumé as it currently stands:

Record: 20-9 (19-9 vs. D-I), 10-6 Big Ten
RPI: 50
KenPom: 46
RPI Strength of Schedule: 68
KP SOS: 59
RPI Top-50: 3-8
RPI 51-100: 1-1
RPI 101+: 15-0

Since the last update, NC State has inched inside the RPI top 100 at #99, at least temporarily providing Michigan with a fourth win over such a squad. Northwestern (#105) and Penn State (#108) could give them three more top-100 wins with strong finishes to the season; while the cutoff is arbitrary, it stands out when committee members are sifting through a pile of spreadsheets.

[Hit THE JUMP for a look at updated brackets and your weekend rooting guide.]

Michigan has two more shots to secure a signature win that should put them firmly in the tournament instead of sweating out their BTT performance:

  • at Wisconsin (#35 RPI, #31 KP)
  • Iowa (#20 RPI, #13 KP)

A victory over either team would give the Wolverines a fourth top-50 RPI win and their 11th in the Big Ten; even if they bowed out of the conference tourney early, it'd be hard to overlook that resumé, especially since M has successfully avoided any bad losses in the regular season. KenPom currently gives Michigan a 26% chance of winning at Wisconsin, one of the hottest teams in the country, and a 46% shot at home against Iowa, which has dropped three of their last four, including a loss at Penn State.

Perhaps because of Michigan's unusual resumé—not many great wins, no bad losses, a non-conference schedule featuring a few very good teams and several really bad ones—there's still not a consensus on where they'd be seeded if the tournament began today. On the high end, Yahoo's Brad Evans and ESPN's Joe Lunardi have them as a nine-seed, comfortably in the field ahead of several other at-large teams. On the low end, CBSSports' Jerry Palm has them as one of the last four teams in the field, facing Florida as a ten-seed in a play-in game; Michigan is also one of the last four at-large teams based on the Easy Bubble Solver, which simply averages each teams' RPI and KenPom ranking to produce a relatively reliable projection of the field.

While the bubble is a little softer than normal this year with Louisville and SMU barred from postseason play, Michigan's hold on an at-large bid is still tenuous—if they don't take another game in the regular season and then fail to make a run in the BTT, upsets in other conference tourneys could push them to (or off) the edge.

Every little bit of help counts. With that in mind, here's your weekend rooting guide. You want the team in bold. Italics indicate a fellow bubble team. Games not involving bubble teams are included for RPI purposes.

  • Nebraska at Penn State (tonight, 7 pm, ESPNU)
  • UConn at USF (tonight, 7:30 pm, CBSSports)*
  • Gonzaga at San Diego (tonight, 10 pm)**
  • Santa Clara at St. Mary's (tonight, 11 pm)**
  • Cincinnati at East Carolina (Saturday, noon, ESPNU)
  • Butler at Georgetown (Saturday, noon, CBS)
  • Oklahoma at Texas (Saturday, 2 pm, CBS)
  • NC State at Syracuse (Saturday, 2 pm, ESPN3)^
  • Rutgers at Northwestern (Saturday, 2 pm, ESPNU)
  • Kentucky at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 4 pm, CBS)
  • UMass at St. Bonaventure (Saturday, 4 pm)
  • Auburn at Alabama (Saturday, 5 pm, SEC Network)
  • Florida at LSU (Saturday, 8:30 pm, ESPN)
  • St. Mary's at San Francisco (Saturday, 11 pm)**
  • Penn State at Michigan State (Sunday, noon, BTN)
  • Xavier at Seton Hall (Sunday, 12:30, FS1)
  • Houston at UConn (Sunday, 1 pm, CBSSports)*
  • Duke at Pittsburgh (Sunday, 2 pm, CBS)
  • Tulsa at Memphis (Sunday, 4 pm, ESPNU)
  • Arizona State at Colorado (Sunday, 4:30 pm, Pac-12 Network)
  • Washington State at Oregon State (Sunday, 6:30 pm, Pac-12 Network)

*While UConn wins would marginally improve Michigan's RPI because of their early-season matchup, the Huskies are also on the bubble; them falling to the wrong side is likely to be more helpful.
**Gonzaga and St. Mary's are tied atop the WCC. Whichever one doesn't earn an auto-bid—and you want one of those two to do so in the conference tourney—will be on the bubble.
^This game is doubly important; Michigan wants NC State to stay inside the RPI top 100 and Syracuse is on the bubble.


Brian Griese

February 25th, 2016 at 4:14 PM ^

Go Nittany Lions (x2), Bulls, Aztecs, Broncos, Pirates, Hoyas, Longhorns, Wolfpack, Wildcats (x2), Minutemen, Tigers (x3), Dons, Musketeers, Cougars, Blue Devils and Sun Devils.   


February 25th, 2016 at 4:27 PM ^

Iowa will be a tall task, but can be done. If we lose both, I think we would need to win 2 games in the B1G tournament. 

Let's just beat Wisconsin so we can all sigh and relax.

turd ferguson

February 25th, 2016 at 4:29 PM ^

This is helpful.  Getting NC State, Northwestern, and PSU in the top 100 feels like one of those things that's extremely important to our chances and extremely stupid that it's important to our chances.


February 25th, 2016 at 4:35 PM ^

I really don't get the RPI top 100 statistic.  People keep sayign we should hope for PSU to jump from 105 to 99 or be excited that NC state is in the high 90s.  It seems to me that the difference between beating a RPI 95 team and an RPI 105 team is not very different.

Essentially I am saying that having a discrete boundry of a good win being RPI 100 is arbitrary and distorts the reality of the resume.  

Just as the diference between an RPI 95 and RPI 105 is not very different.  I see a majore difference in beating an RPI 55 and RPI 95, and yet they are lumped into the same category of wins.

Maybe the commtte should consider a new statistic.  Easiest example: you could average the RPI of your wins however this penalizes you for beating bad teams.

SO lets take the maximum RPI subtract it from your oppents you have beaten RPI and sum it together:

For each win:   (Maximum RPI - Oppenent RPI)   = WinGame score

Season score = WinGame score1 + WinGamescore2 +.....

Rank based on season winning score!


A similar statistic could be used to measure the quality of your losses



February 25th, 2016 at 8:43 PM ^

Fair point.  The difference I see is that one is a game where you scheme to maximize your sucess given the rules.  Where as ranking the sucess of teams is subjective.  


I agree we need boundaries and cutoffs.  I am not suggesting expanding the field, simply improving the we analyze the teams that should be in it.  

turd ferguson

February 25th, 2016 at 4:43 PM ^

I really hope we make it, but if I'm being honest with myself, I can't see this team going very far if it does.  It's not a bad team, it just has a lower ceiling than recent Michigan teams.  Our bigger wins have felt more like gutsy games that we eked out than hints that we can be world beaters when we're on.

But funny things happen so who knows.


February 25th, 2016 at 5:03 PM ^

Rather than scouring the internet for each analysts' brackets, everyone should be using the Bracket Matrix (<--linked) to see all of the brackets in aggregate. This gives a much better idea of where Michigan stands in a quick glance than parsing through Linardi, Palm, and other "professional" bracketologists. 

Disclaimer: I may be slightly partial to the matrix because I am a particiant in it (see signature link below for my contribution to it)


February 25th, 2016 at 6:25 PM ^

OK, you got me to click on your link. Well played. I see that you were the 34th-ranked "newbie bracketologist" last year among those 48 "bracketologists" who've been listed on the Bracket Matrix for less than three seasons. LINK  But unless I'm missing something, there's a certain school from Ann Arbor, Michigan that's conspicuous by its absence from your latest bracket at "Bordering on Wisdom."  

In the latest matrix shown, Michigan is the highest rated 11th seed.

I’ve been referring to the Bracket Matrix for several years, but I’ve always been concerned about (a) the number of “bracketologists” (currently 104) whose brackets are displayed on the matrix, and (b) the reliability of each of those “bracketologists.” I often ask myself, "Who are these people?" https://youtu.be/SOijurJ1nMc?t=11

From year to year, the Bracket Project ranks the “bracketologists” for their respective performances in predicting the NCAA Tournament field over at least a three-year period.  Last year, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi ranked 36th among the “bracketologists,” Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tanked 44th, Yahoo Sports’ Brad Evans ranked 46th, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports ranked 55th and The Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan ranked 79th among 89 “bracketologists” who’ve been posting their predictions for at least three years. LINK
The top-rated “bracketologist” last year was Andy Bottoms of the Indiana University blog, Assembly Call. His bracket as of February 23 has Michigan as one of the last four in the field, playing Cincinnati in the First Four in Dayton for a 10-seed and an opening round game against 7th-seeded USC. LINK
The Bracket Project (ranked 25th last year) bracket, also as of February 23, has Michigan playing Gonzaga in the First Four in Dayton for an 11-seed and an opening round game against 6th-seeded Notre Dame. LINK



February 26th, 2016 at 7:33 AM ^

There are definitely some brackets in the matrix with more credibility than others. The historical scoring system is a good reference for finding whose brackets are worth paying attention to. I was disappointed with my ranking last year so had to tweak my formulas in the off-season (my bracket is entirely data-generated) and hopefully it results in a better ranking this time around. 

I only update mine every couple of days, so my prior update with Michigan out of the field was before the Northwestern win. This morning they are back in (barely).

A few years ago I grew a bit tired of only having one resource (Lunardi) for bracketology, so I was happy to stumble upon the matrix one day. It's interesting that he is a middle of the pack participant despite being the most well-known. 

I've found two interesting things about projecting a bracket myself: It is easier than you may think to pick the field correctly, but harder than it seems to get the seeding correct. There are 32 autobids, so you definitely get those teams right, and the rest of the RPI top 30 is a lock to get in so that leaves maybe 15 or so bids that require actually thinking about. If you miss more than 8, you're really doing a poor job of projecting the field. Seeding at the top and the bottom is pretty easy, but being accurate in the 6-11 range is where the forecasting becomes most challenging.


February 25th, 2016 at 5:37 PM ^

If you're a last-four-in team now, it stands to reason that you won't be after losing your next two games. Nor does it seem logical that beating Nebraska on a neutral court would then put you back in the field.

Also, the current projections don't account for the bid stealers that will likely surface during the conference tournament.

All of this is to say that U-M needs to beat one more real opponent.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


February 26th, 2016 at 10:38 AM ^

everything else remains stagnant other than UM's W-L record.  The RPI changes after every game.  Other teams are playing games and the outcome of those games will have a ripple affect as to where teams are seeded.  Whereas we are often times only looking at UM, the reality is there are lots of teams trying to get into the NCAA.  UM is affected not just by what UM does but also by what other teams do.

When you're on the bubble, it's almost like taking a class where a teacher is going to grade the class on a curve.  How you do in the class depends a lot on the quality of your work but at the same time your grade is going to be determined by the quality of work by the other people in the class.

Franz Schubert

February 25th, 2016 at 7:29 PM ^

Contrary to what you say, Michigan has 3 great wins already. Maryland, Purdue and Texas are all top 25 wins. It's odd that we label Michigan's top 25 wins as top 50 wins as if they are not better than beating teams in the 40s. Then turn around and stress the importance of teams moving up a mere 5 spots or so to be top 100 wins. The difference from top 25 to top 50 is huge and the commitee will definitely give weight to this in comparison with teams that don't have top 25 wins. For this reason Michigan just needs a single win period. No matter who or where it happens. Michigan has statement wins, the wording should state another statement win.


February 25th, 2016 at 8:07 PM ^

unless we look like ridiculous poop against all three of our final opponents. And we won't. We are to win one to two of those games (which I suppose means 4 more games).