Bubble News: First Sunday Without Football Edition (With Pick$)

Submitted by jamiemac on January 31st, 2010 at 11:31 AM

I've had a heartbreaking month of college hoops. I havent buckled down into religiously watching the whole nation, but I have watched, with anticipation and hope, every single minute of Indiana and Michigan basketball since their league seasons began, coincidentally, and perhaps in foreshadowed-bad-karma fashion, against each other on New Year's Eve. They are my two favorite teams, close to my heart, after all.  Neverminding any backstory  required to explain how that bizarre dual fanship has formed over the years, rest assured this month has totally wrenched my gut and punched my dong. Both clubs have had tremendous moments, but they've been meted out by a bounty of near misses and snatching defeat from the arms of victory outcomes.

It hasnt been all bad. The Wolverines and Hoosiers are a combined 15-5 ATS since league play started. And, if you haven't figured it out yet, I not only like to gamble on sports, but encourage betting on your teams games. So, there's been some Maize and Blue and Cream and Crimson profit to start 2010. I didnt have either in their Saturday covers yesterday, but i went to the window nine times in favor of one of these teams during the last month and not once did it net a losing ticket. (FYI: Just about each pick was touted at the JCB, so dont miss whatever February bandwagons we Book)

Ok, so I cant bitch one bit. But it did prove revealing that I still have a true heart and that sports losses remain impactful on me in a heartfelt, idealistic fan level. I have been downright mopey in the aftermath of my teams going 3-6 straight up in "close games." They mastered the art of losing, but covering,yet  with each time my spirits dimmed, drowning out the cash register rings. I could not go a  stretch a a few days without one of them team bringing me to the brink of celebration only to drop me and my fan brethern on our collective heads.

Indiana chokes away a 13-point halftime lead at home and losses to Illinois. Hours later I watch the Wolverines copy that in a loss at Crisler to Northwestern, a result I still havent been able to explain. Saturday, the Wolverines are nuetered by the sudden Manny Harris suspension. Sunday, the Hoosiers get blown out at home to Iowa, a loss that caused a lot of soul searching from folks regarding the reality of the rebuilding project. The Kailon Lucas show and DeSeans lip out proved an effective 1-2 punch that knocked me out of the college hoops world for a few days earlier this week. Just when I thought it was safe to step back in the ring, Indiana losses at the buzzer to Illinois yesterday after playing brilliant for 40 minutes. It was the most exciting and nerve racking three minutes of the Tom Crean era, but a stomach punch loss nevertheless.

The result? A February with a lot less stakes on the line where the teams postseasons hopes are concerned. A little more luck and IU could all but have an NIT bid in their grasp. That equals a  huge step forward after a 6-win, 1-17 Big 10 campaign a year ago. We'd be having daily posts at the JCB reminding everyone just how smart we were by predicting an IU 5-4 home record or better in Big 10 play. Instead, the Hoosiers are 2-2 in those games with a lot of hard ones ahead and a better than .500 record needed the rest of the way  just to finish .500 overall. The season will close out just like the second year of Michigan's football rebuilding job did this past fall. Progress totally obscured and, in some minds, totally wiped out by a string of losses piling up to end the year.

As for Michigan, they are 1-5 overall, 0-4 in Big 10 play in games decided by 6 points or less. If they are two games better and break even in those games--and lets say the 2-game turnaround is in league games--this club is sitting at 13-8, 6-4. A good bet for 11 wins in league play, their best conference mark in wins in years. An impressive record in an a power league. A non conference slate that at least proves you tried not to duck people. Dont bomb out in the BTT, and they're probably in. Instead, they're just one game above overall and one game below .500 in Big 10 play. A brutal spot to be in as February starts.

 They have two hopes. Embark on the program's longest winning streak since the 13-game run in LaVell Blanchard's senior season that helped unbury the season after an 0-7 start. Now, there were a couple cupcakes in that mix, but it also included wins over 6 Big 10 teams and Vanderbilt and UCLA. Something in the ballpark of 6 or 7 in a row could get them into some brackets by the last week of February. With the rout of Iowa yesterday--and sixth straight cover-- it's one down and an indefinite amount to go. The second option  is to win the Big 10 Tournament. Both are  decided longshots.

 Still, I dont think its unreasonable to claim Michigan will go 7-3 in their final 10 games. They wont go worse than 6-4. Doing at least that will equal last year's league mark and put them in the NIT. I think its important for the team to keep playing, if for no other reason than for Darius Morris' sake. The freshman point guard looks to be the biggest key next season. If Michigan expects to compete for the postseason next season, Morris needs to step up his production. I think he can be a double digit scorer next year and improve his scoring from year 1 to year 2 the way fellow Big 10 guards Travon Hughes, Verdell Jones and Chris McCamey did from their freshmen to sophomore campaigns. Morris was basically the same sort of  prospect coming out of high school than all of them, so I dont discount it from repeating. I expect it.  And, he's the best recruit the program has brought in since they inked Harris in 2007. He almost has to be The Man next year for this team. His length and speed will spearhead another good Beilein defensive unit next year. I could see him contending for league honors in steals and assists next season generating some easy offense for Michigan. But, he needs as many reps as possible this season. A 3-4 game run in the NIT with his role continuing to expand would be an ideal table setter for a better than most people expected season next year. Beilein is 13-6 SU, 14-5 ATS in NIT games, so there will also be some investment opportunities. The Wolverines have been one of the most profitable teams the last six weeks. I think it will keep up as I predict at least a 5-2 February. I'd like to keep winning on this team as long as possible and wont mind an NIT run if it also sets a good tone for 2010-11.

So, thats where I sit with my teams as February is about to begin. Anxiously awaiting the first NIT Projections of the year (due out here tomorrow) to see where Michigan sits and how far Indiana has to go to get there. Its not ideal. But at least I have more money in my pocket.

More depression comes from the knowledge that this is the first Sunday without football. I dont count the Pro Bowl. Despite next week's Super Bowl hullaballoo, we're left with a weekly hole in our sporting calendar. It's probably a good thing. There are better pursuits after all. College basketball, however, does provide some action on Sundays and, at times, will give us enough of a buzz the next six weeks so we dont go through complete cold turkey withdrawals with the sudden football void. Today is a perfect tonic. Eight big games--all on the TV dial somewhere--that all will have an impact on how the immediate Bubble will look when February begins tomorrow. There's four weeks to go until its officially March. Check out theremainder of my post on today's game with picks at the JCB



January 31st, 2010 at 12:04 PM ^

UM and Indiana are similar. Both have good histories but are in down cycles caused by, in part, past shenanigans. That's why the teams got on national TV; they are somewhat equally matched and still have big names, despite their recent performance. IU's rep was built on hoops and UM's mainly on football, but there are still a lot of similarities in the current situations of both programs.

Also, if history is any indication, both teams will be back soon.


January 31st, 2010 at 12:15 PM ^

gives us a shot if we make it to Saturday in the BTT.

We can do that if we defend home court well (0-1 losses) and take 2-3 on the road.

2/02 @ NW 7:00 PM
2/06 WIS 4:00 PM
2/11 @ MINN 7:00 PM
2/16 @ IOWA 9:00 PM
2/20 PSU 6:00 PM
2/23 ILL 7:00 PM
2/27 @ OSU TBA
3/06 @ MSU TBA

Number 7

January 31st, 2010 at 12:17 PM ^

With 11 wins and nine games (Plus tourney) left, it's hard to fathom getting in with fewer than 19 wins. But it's also hard to fathom getting left out with at least 19 wins.

Here, then, are the routes to 19:

4-5 in the rest of the regular season, 4-0 in the tournament. (In)

5-4 the rest of the way, losing in the tournament final (3-1). Tourney semifinal win over a top 12 team puts us in.

6-3 in the regular, 2-1 in the B10 tourney. (At 17 wins going into the tourney, the buzz will be "Michigan needs 2 wins to advance." If 6-3 gives Michigan a 5-seed (and a bye), 1-1 might be enough.)

7-2 in the regular, 1-1 in the B10 tourney (including a first-round bye).

8-1 or 9-0 the rest of the way, the B10 tourney doesn't matter.

Snidely Doo Rash

January 31st, 2010 at 8:39 PM ^

jamie mac back. NIce that florida lost today to TN. Now I get help rooting against bubble teams from evil conferences. I fully expect UM to make a good run based on: a) last year, b) improved play of Sims and Harris, and c) maturation of the greenhorns. That said, the NIT will be okay if things break badly. Not earning an NIT bid would be painful to say the least.


January 31st, 2010 at 10:21 PM ^

But you really needed a few of those in the win column. As of right now, you have two top 100 Pomeroy wins - OSU and UConn. It's going to be almost impossible to make up that ground. I think BYU had the lowest top 100 win total last year of all at-large teams, and that was 6 (against only eight losses). Your RPI is outside the top 100 at this point. And don't forget, the win over Northern Michigan doesn't exist as far as the selection committee is concerned (only games against D-1 teams count).

I don't see a prayer of an at-large for you short of 7-2 and a good run in the Big Ten tourney. 10-8 in conference leaves you at 16-13 going into the Big Ten tourney, with (assuming you don't lose to PSU or Iowa) a 6-11 record against the top 100 and two losses outside. Getting to the final still might not do it then. 11-7 gives you a chance, although you'd probably still need a sizable amount of help from the rest of the bubble. Realistically, a decent run gets you to the NIT, and it would take something spectacular to get to the main event (I'm thinking 7-2 + Big Ten final or 8-1 + semis).

Kilgore Trout

February 1st, 2010 at 8:53 AM ^

I think you're pretty much right on. We need the 7-2 throughout the rest of the regular season to even think about an at large. As to how those games break down, I think UM has less than a 5% chance of winning either at OSU or at MSU, so they basically need a 6 game winning streak right now (the Iowa win included). This means wins at Iowa, NW, and Minnesota as well as beating Wisconsin and Illinois at home. Tall order, but not impossible.

If somehow this could work out for them to finish 11-7 and not end up in the 4-5 BTT game, that would be ideal too. I think they still need a run in the BTT even at 11-7, and I think it would be nice to not run into MSU in the semis (assuming MSU takes the #1 seed).


February 1st, 2010 at 12:51 PM ^

I mostly agree. I think the tournament is a long shot unless they go on some crazy tear and go relatively deep into the BTT. 18-19 wins might get them in if those wins are relatively impressive (like @MSU and maybe Purdue in the BTT), but would be tough. While it hurts to say it, this team has played like a NIT squad most of the year, and that may be where the talent is right now. Last year they really rode the Duke and UCLA wins to the tournament, and this year they just don't have that marquee victory (I don't think UConn is as big a scalp as either of those clubs).


February 2nd, 2010 at 12:32 PM ^

but while you focus on UM's poor record in close games in conference play, to me the kicker is the missed opportunities in the non-league portion of their schedule.

An awful 16 point loss at Utah, who overall sits at 10-11.

A 2 pt loss on a neutral floor to Alabama who will probably be NIT bound.

A 4 pt loss at home to Boston College, who like Alabama will probably at best be NIT bound.

If UM could have held serve against BC at home and then won either the Utah or Alabama game, they'd be 13-8 overall. Not great, but probably still in the bubble talk for the ncaa tourney, and not really needing a huge finish down the stretch. A 9-9 conference record would have left them at 18-12.