Bubble News: Quick Analysis on Latest Mock Brackets

Submitted by jamiemac on February 17th, 2009 at 9:46 AM

Color me frustrated with the Bracketology World this morning.

Catching up with the mock brackets last night, I expected Michigan to surge a little bit. I had convinced myself they might find their way into enough fields to build a consensus spot in the Bracket Matrix. If not that far, they would be no worse than on the cusp of the field.

Yeah, um, about that, ah, well funny thing, it seems my analysis was a wee bit off.

Ironically, Michigan, despite a great road win and plenty of fellow bubble teams falling around them, actually lost ground in the last comprehensive Matrix update. Before the weekend, Michigan was third to last out of the field, according to the full view of the Matrix, which tracks upwards of 55 mock brackets. Monday night, however, they had been downgraded to sixth to last out.

Looking deeper into the Matrix eased only some fears. Only 28 brackets were updated today to include games played through the weekend. So, not all the "votes" are in. But, still, Michigan was only in five of those 28 brackets. I expected that number to be at least twice as much.

Michigan does not appear to have separated themselves at all from the group of teams just left out of the field. Michigan is one of the final eight teams on the outside looking in, according to the Bracket Matrix.

Of those teams, Michigan, at least, passed Kansas State as they're in one more bracket than KSU of those 28 fields updated yesterday. Rather surprisingly, Michigan only received the same amount of invites as Penn State and Providence. Georgetown, Creighton and USC, meanwhile, remain in more of these 28 fields than the Wolverines.

Spinning some of these numbers positively, you do notice that seven of the eight final teams out, Michigan included, basically have been given equal accord. They're all scattered in just enough brackets across the entire 55-bracket spectrum to make a dent in the Matrix and be included in the final group out. It is within Michigan's grasp to out perform all of those teams from here on out.

Southern Cal, the team in this first eight out group with the most bids, has not paid in full for their loss late Sunday night. The Trojans are in 28 fields (compared to the average number of fields from the other seven in this group ,9.5, with UM in 9 fields), however more than half of those bids came from brackets that have yet to be updated to include the weekend's results. The Trojans should lose support as more mocks come in. Who will get those bids?

Michigan's losing record in league play right now might be the one thing that’s keeping UM from sweeping onto one of the final bracket lines.

Michigan has a decade's worth of mediocrity to overcome as far as perception goes. Coming to the table with a losing league mark is something you only want to do if you're a tournament regular and folks are already conditioned to giving you the benefit of the doubt. Michigan is not in either category. Despite improved play from the Big 10, Bracketologists dont seem inclined to include a team from the league that’s below .500. And, most appear to be having a hard time talking themselves into granting seven bids to the league.

Not all Bracketologists feel this way. One, The Bracketeer, whose mock field is affiliated with, of all things, a Creighton Blog, sneaks the Wolverines in the field. He explains that in each of the last two seasons a team with a losing record from a BCS league netted an invite. As of now, he feels Michigan will benefit from that gift. Mr. Bracketeer, the Mgoblog Community salutes you for going to extra historical research mile on behalf of the Maize and Blue.

Michigan needs to force everyone else's hand this week with a pair of conference wins. It will push UM to 8-7 in the Big 10. In the updates one week from today, I would be more than interested in hearing arguments for keeping UM out of the field, considering they would have a winning league mark, big time OOC scalps in Duke and UCLA and as many wins against the RPI top 100 as anyone else on the bubble.

What surprised me when looking into the fields that updated yesterday was the fact that for every field that had Michigan just missing the cut, there was a field where Michigan didn't seem to be in contention and left off of whatever 'final group left out' list thrown out there. There is a fairly wide range of opinion on the Wolverines. And, the more prominent brackets out there are among those driving the inconsistent judgment on the Maize and Blue.

Michigan is on the up tick according the Matrix administrators. In their own field at the Bracket Project, Michigan remains excluded from the field. They don’t list who their final teams out are, but in the mock NIT Field, Michigan is a top seed, moving up from a 3 seed last week. Moving up on the NIT Bracket lines is progress, right?

Michigan was the last team out of Lunardi's field at ESPN. He also pointed out in an interview on the WWL that the Wolverines could easily play themselves into a bid. The Wolverines were also the biggest mover of the week in the Bracket Junkie's field, going from 7th to last Out to 3rd to last In. Those two are annually considered among the most accurate Bracketologists. Those are good signs.

You know who else gets acclaim for their accuracy and brilliant mock brackets? Bracketology 101 and College Hoops Net, both of whom continued to downgrade Michigan. In B101, Michigan's fall mirrored their overall decline in the Matrix with UM going from third to last out to sixth to last. Siegel at CBH had been a long holdout for UM's chances, but in his bracket Monday, he doesn't even have the Wolverines listed among the final eight teams left out. I dont feel comfortable about Michigan's standings if both of these guys have Michigan falling farther out of range for bid.

Bottom line, it's up to Michigan to gain people's support. If they have a winning record in their final regular season games, they will notch at least two more wins against teams currently in the field. They will also notch at least one road win. With more bubble carnage also expected between now and then, its still safe to assume that three more wins, enough to clinch a .500 league mark, will be enough for Michigan to earn an at large bid.

I think.

Looking elsehere along the Bracket Matrix, here a couple of other observations:

Bracketologists gave Cincinnati a mulligan for their road loss to Pitt over the weekend. That's fair enough considering the Panthers might be the best team in the nation. Of the 28 brackets updated Monday, CU remained in 18 of them. The Bearcats recent run up the Big East standings gave them enough capital to absorb a loss to an elite team. Can they afford two? Most of the brackets have them clinging to a 12 seed. The Bearcats next play Saturday afternoon at home against Louisville. I dont think they get a second mulligan with another loss.

The Miami Hurricanes are in jeopardy of being swept out of most fields. There were more new brackets Monday, by a 15-13 count, that had Miami out of the field. By that metric, the Canes are the team most in danger of falling out the Matrix. They travel to Florida St Wednesday night and host Boston College Saturday afternoon. Those are two games that might be as important as any other games along the way for Michigan's eventual chances. The Wolverines are decidedly anti-Da U from here on out.

The Mountain West Conference continues to receive four bids. I promise to no longer get worked up about this though. In the Matrix, BYU, SDSS and UNLV remain in a vast majority of fields, but all three are on the 11 line. I dont think any of those teams can afford losses at that projection and not fall by the wayside if other bubble teams perform well. After spending the last couple of weeks collecting wins against the bottom half of the league, we finally see a run of head to head matchups that might end up being elimination games relating to next Monday's brackets. New Mexico at BYU, BYU at UNLV, SDSU at NM, UNLV at Utah, BYU at SDSU are all on the schedule from now until the end of the month. The league could cannabolize its at-large bids between now and the end of the month. It will be hard to keep the losers of those games in mock brackets as we get closer to March, especially if other bubble teams perform well.

Beware Creighton. The Bluejays suddenly are in more updated fields than Michigan. The Missouri Valley Conference had been on a six-year run of receiving multiple bids into the dance. That ended last year. But Creighton and league cohort Northern Iowa are trying to start a new streak. What's intriguing about the Jays position is that, unlike most mid majors this time of year, they can really improve their resume in their final four regular season games. They play MVC fourth place team Evansville tonight. On Saturday, they have a marquee Bracket Buster game against well known George Mason, where a win will impress. After a road game against last place Missouri State, the Jays close the season on ESPN playing third place Illinois St. If they win those games, they will be in the tournament as long as they dont flame out early in the MVC tournament. How many losses will it take to implode their at large hopes. One? Two? This is a storyline to watch between now and the end of the month.

Did Texas A/M just breathe new life into their season? They have a poor man's Michigan resume with a pair of OOC wins over LSU and Arizona sparkling their profile. But, they are three games below .500 in conference play in a league regarded to be below the Big 10. Yet, getting lost in the Bracket Matrix for some time reveals the Aggies in a surprising amount of final groups left out of the field. And that was before last night's resume win over Texas. They have one of the easiest slates of all the bubble teams from here on out, although they do have three league road games to play. Still, the Aggies have to be considered a threat again.



February 17th, 2009 at 10:53 AM ^

Very well done, thanks for all the info and research.

Looking at the B10 alone, we've got some interesting scenarios...

First, let's focus on tonight. Michigan State at Purdue. This game is a big one for the Big Ten, and in my opinion a big game for the Wolverines. We're Sparty fans tonight ladies and gents. If the Big 10 hopes to get 7 teams in, we need to have a legit title contender. It makes the conference look so much better when there's a team sitting in the Top 5. MSU, with a win at Purdue, can really cement themselves as a title contender and thus improve the perception of the Big 10.

However, a little more concrete stuff; standings.

5. Minnesota (7-6)
6. Penn State (7-6)
7. Wisconsin (7-6)
8. Michigan (6-7)

There's where it is all at. #8 won't be in. #7 is a possibility. Looking at the schedules, here's my predictions...

Let's start with Penn State, who's been sliding badly. I have them going either 2-3 or 1-4 in their last 5 games. Win over Indiana at home. Toss ups @ Iowa, home to Illinois. Losses at Illinois, at OSU. I think PSU is unofficially done. For arguments sake, assume they finish 1-4.

Next, consider Wisco. Wisco has the best remaining schedule and I think they vault all the way to #5 in the Big 10 and make the tourney. Wins at Indiana, home to Michigan, home to Indiana. Toss up at Minnesota, loss at MSU. Assume they finish 4-1.

Minnesota could be in trouble. I don't really like the way they've played of late and their schedule is iffy. They've lost 3 of 4, but none have been bad losses. That said, they start this end run on the road against us. Losses at Michigan and at Illinois. Wins at home against Michigan and Northwestern. Wisco at home is a toss up. Assume they finish 2-3.

Then us. I'm predicting a win against the Gophers in a rocking Crisler Arena Thursday. Then we have Iowa on the road, should be another win. On a 3-game winning streak hosting Purdue, I think Michigan can and will take that game. The last two games are tough road games against teams fighting to get in the tourney, first Wisco then Minn. I predict two losses there with us finishing 3-2.

That yields:

5. Wisconsin 10-8
6. Minnesota 9-9
7. Michigan 9-9
8. Penn State 8-10

With the seven seed, we'd play the 10 seed, likely Iowa. That should be a win. Then we'd play the 2 seed.

If we fall to 8, we play the 9 seed, likely NW. Then the 1 seed. So, finishing 7th is huge. That's definitely enough (9-9 and 1 BTT win) to get us in, IMO.


February 17th, 2009 at 11:35 AM ^

Now what happens if we manage to beat Wiscy or Minn at their place? Then we've got our 20 wins and we're 10-8 in conference play but then we're stuck playing a 3 seed in the BTT. Would we rather be 10-10 with a win in the BTT or 10-9 with an opening round loss in the BTT? Record wise we'd be at 20 either way but how much do you think it would matter that we didn't even win 1 game in the BTT? I don't think the bracket guys would give a crap that we had to play a 3 seed - they'd just see that we lost. Personally I'd rather be 9-9, 7 seed and get a chance to play the #2 seed because if we could pull that off I think we'd be set.

Either way I think if we can make it to 20 wins (either 10-8 w/ 0 BTT, 9-9 w/ 1 BTT, or even 8-10 w/ 2 BTT) we should skate in as a 11 seed. Call me crazy but given our performances against Duke, UCLA and UConn I think we'd have a real shot in the tourney going against these schools who haven't played us before...

Yinka Double Dare

February 17th, 2009 at 12:38 PM ^

If we're the 6 seed, we play 11 seed Indiana in the first round before we would play the 3 seed. An opening round loss to IU would be absolutely killer to our chances, but beat them and lose to a 3 and we're probably OK, especially if the game against the 3 is a decent game and not a woodshed beating. We'd have a reasonable shot at beating the 3 seed though.

If we're the 5 seed in conference, we get a bye and then play the 4 seed. If we're the 5 seed though I'm pretty confident that we're in no matter what we do in that 4-5 game.


February 17th, 2009 at 11:39 AM ^

We Owe Minnesota a couple of beatdowns. The team this year has an excellent chance to win a few games here and grab a bid. I like the toughness and resilliency the team has. I think Beilein has really gotten through to most of them about playing solid defense.

It would be especially sweet if they could post two victories over Minnesota, which kept two Amaker era teams out of the Big Dance with gift-wrapped victories in the big ten tournament.

A few times this year the team has played 3 tough games in quick succession (like 5 or 6 days). I think that will positively affect the mentality and help them win a couple in the big ten tourney.


February 17th, 2009 at 1:50 PM ^

Great work as usual.

I'm not certain that 9-9 gets UM into the tourney if they don't nab a "scalp" in the process. Sure, Minny would be a nice win, but UM needs to take down a Wisconsin or Purdue because both are "name" programs that would show a late-season resurgence by UM. Wins against Iowa and Minnesota, while nice, won't put a great stamp on the end of the season. Of course, a big run in the BTT would make this all moot, but I want to see a big win against Purdue or Wiscy before I start making plans for March Madness.


February 17th, 2009 at 2:06 PM ^

Thanks for the compliment, also.

Here's the Rub with the 9-9 league mark: They cant get to that mark without getting said scalp, be it home vs PU or road vs Wisco.

The only other way to 9-9 is to win at Iowa and sweep Minny, which would include a win at Minny in the regular season finale....sure, those 3 wins aren't great, but it would push Minny likely out of the field, and UM in its place for the 6th Big 10 Team.

I really like UM's position if they get to 9-9, any way you slice it, in Big 10.


February 17th, 2009 at 3:53 PM ^

I didn't read your entire blog but I'm sure it's very thorough.

Not real sure why you spend so many hours on this really. We go 9-9 and win one BT tourney game we're in. If not, we probably aren't. I guess I'm just more of a macro guy whereas you like to get into every detail, which is fine.

I'll just stick to 9-9 +1 to get us in.

Go Blue!

Snidely Doo Rash

February 18th, 2009 at 7:04 PM ^

Thanks Jamiemac for upgrading the Mbball coverage here. This team is worth trying to push over the top. They can win a few games in the dance if they can get there. And, thanks to Brian for coming back from memphis (home of elvis and the ancient greeks).


February 19th, 2009 at 1:04 AM ^

The bad first: it would have been nice if the Illini could have beaten PSU. That might breath some live into PSU coming down the stretch and could make things real interesting in the big ten.

Good news: Miami, FL lost again and maybe even better news - UNLV lost to Wyoming.

One of the catches with UNLV is that the MWC tourney is played in their arena and they end up winning their conference tourney ALOT.