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 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.