Does Michigan Have an Outside Chance at an At-Large Bid?

Submitted by Bambi on February 22nd, 2015 at 4:44 PM

So after the win against OSU, I've decided to take my first bit of optimism about Michigan basketball this year and blow it way out of proportion. I'm asking the big question:

Can we make the tournament?

Obviously for this exercise I'm going to assume we don't win Big Ten Tournament, because if we do, we're in no matter what. So I'm looking purely at an at-large bid.

We are currently 14-13 after the win. But since we're not winning the Big Ten Tourney in this exercise, that means we have at least one more loss on our resume. This means we'll have to be a 14 loss team looking for an at-large bid.

So the first thing to look at:


How often do 14 loss teams get at-large bids?

To answer this I looked at every at-large team's record that has recieved a bid since 2007. The results are very interesting.

In only 2 years in that time span has team with 14 losses recieved an at-large bid.


19-14 Arizona was a 10 seed.


20-14 Marquette was an 11 seed

19-14 Tennessee was a 9 seed

19-14 Penn State was a 10 seed

19-14 USC was an 11 seed

19-14 Michigan State was a 10 seed.



Wow. I really wasn't expecting many 14 loss teams to have gotten at-large bids, and I was pretty correct except for 2011.

Looking at it, 2011 must have had an incredibly weak bubble if that many 14 loss teams made the tourney. I don't think we can expect that weak of a bubble this year, and it will be discussed further down in the post.

On the plus side since 2011, an extra 3 at large bids have been added, so it will be a little easier to make the tournament.


2011 USC

I bolded 2011 USC because I just wanted to point out their resume.

In 2011, USC had one win over a ranked team. That was an Arizona team that ended up being a 5 seed.

Of their loses, here are some notable ones:

23-11 Rider Broncos: Lost in the first round of the CBI

12-20 Bradley Braves: No post season tournament

11-22 TCU Horned Frogs: No post season tournament

19-13 Nebraska Cornhuskers: Lost in the first round of the NIT

21-18 Oregon Ducks: Won the CBI (they were 16-17 at the time of selection)

11-20 Oregon State Beavers: No post season tournament

Now that I looked at 14 loss at-large teams, I wanted to do the same with 13, to see what difference that extra loss makes.


How often do 13 loss teams get at-large bids?

Using the same time frame as before:


21-13 Arkanasas was a 12 seed


18-13 Oregon was a 9 seed


20-13 Michigan was a 10 seed

19-13 Arizona was a 12 seed

20-13 Maryland was a 10 seed


21-13 Minnesota was an 11 seed


20-13 Michigan was an 8 seed

19-13 Illinois was a 9 seed


20-13 South Florida was a 12 seed

20-13 Texas was an 11 seed

19-13 West Virginia was a 10 seed

20-13 Connecticut as a 9 seed


20-13 Villanova was a 9 seed


21-13 NC State was a 12 seed



So at least one 13 loss team every year I checked has gotten an at-large bid, with the most being 4 in 2012.



So after looking at historical precedent, we need to see how Michigan compares. As I said earlier, our record is 14-13 (7-8). If we're looking for an at-large, we're going to essentially be at least 14 loss team however.

Looking above, it's pretty clear that the odds are slim as it is, but if we lose another game we have 0 chance at an at large. This means winning out in the regular season. That would put as at 17-13 (10-8), with wins @ Maryland, @ Northwestern, and home vs Rutgers.

In conference, we would probably finish right in the middle of the pack, getting a first round bye. For Big Ten Tournament purposes, a 10-8 record, winning % wise, would be the 7 seed, so for simplicities sake I'll put us there, and leave everyone else where they are now.

In the first round we would play the 10 seed who also has a first round bye, which in this case would be Nebraska. We beat Nebraksa 58-44 in our only regular season matchup.

After that we would play the second seed, who has a double bye. In this case, that would be Maryland, although Purdue has the same conference record currently.

Then, assuming seeds hold, we would be playing the 3 seed in the semi-finals, which would be Purdue.

Finally, assuming a loss in the finals (since in this scenario we are not getting an auto-bid), we would probably lose to the 1-seed Wisconsin. Our final record would be 20-14.


Our Resume

So assuming all of this happens as layed out above, we would be 20-14 (10-8), which would be more wins than any of the previous 14 loss teams to make the tourney except for Marquette, who also had 20.

We would be 2-4 vs the RPI top 25 (both wins against Maryland), 4-10 vs the RPI top 50, 8-12 vs the RPI top 100, and 12-2 vs the rest.

We would also be 4-6 on the road, and 4-2 on a neutral site.

We currently have an SOS of 11 and RPI of 89, but both those would change depending on these results, mainly the RPI increasing.


The Bubble

Now it's time to look at the teams Michigan is competing against. According to Joe Lunardi, the last 8 teams in the tournament are:

17-9 Illinois Fighting Illini: 2-2 vs RPI top 25, 1 loss vs RPI 100+, 1-1 vs Michigan

16-11 NC State Wolfpack: 2-4 vs RPI top 25, 1 loss vs RPI 100+, 1-0 vs Boise State

17-9 St. Johns Red Storm: 2-6 vs RPI top 25, 2 losses vs RPI 100+

17-9 Stanford Cardinal: 0-3 vs RPI top 25, 3 losses vs RPI 100+

20-7 Boise State Broncos: 1-1 vs RPI top 25, 3 losses vs RPI 100+, 0-1 vs NC State

18-9 Cincinnati Bearcats: 3-1 vs RPI top 25, 3 losses vs RPI 100+

19-8 LSU Tigers: 1-1 vs RPI top 25, 3 losses vs RPI 100+

16-12 UCLA Bruins: 1-6 vs RPI top 25, 1 loss vs RPI 100+

Obviously keep in mind that the resume for Michigan is theoretical while these resumes are concrete, so more wins and losses will be added.


The Conclusion

So after all of this typing and time I've wasted, what's the final takeaway?

Well, I'm sure you could have guessed this, but if Michigan wants to make the tourney, they're gonna have to win the Big Ten Tourney. Even assuming Michigan does finish out how I assumed above, Michigan would at best be a last 4 in type team, which does not bode well.

Also, this post is assuming that Michigan wins @ Maryland, which no team except for Virginia has done, so good luck with that. And expecting this team to win 7 straight for any other purposes besides me avoiding studying is setting yourself up for disappointment.


Reasons to be Semi-Optimistic

If you do want to hold out hope, however, here are a few things that might make you feel a bit better:

  • A 14 loss team can make the tournament. It's happened before, so 14 losses isn't the kiss of death for an at-large bid. It makes it very tough however.
  • The bubble isn't too strong. Granted, I don't think it ever is, but UCLA, for example, only has one less loss than Michigan, only has one RPI top 25 win, and is projected to be in the tournament.
  • If Michigan finishes as assumed above, that would mean we would be 8-2 in our last 10 with an 8 game win streak. The committee likes to look at how you finish, and that's the best way Michiga could hope.
  • Along those lines, the injuries to Walton and Levert. I know it's weird to think of those as positives, but they could be for Michigan's chances. Whenever a team suffers key injuries, the committee wants to see how they do without the missing players. If Michigan ends strongly, they can say the inuries to Walton and Levert were the cause for the poor play, and once the team had experience playing without those two, they finished very strongly.
  • Our bad losses aren't THAT bad. Losing to NJIT and EMU are clearly part of Michigan's problems right now on the resume. But you saw USC's resume in 2011 when they made, and there are teams projected in the tournament right now with more losses than Michigan against sub RPI 100 teams, so the loses can be overcome.
  • We'd essentially be a 13 loss team. I know this is weird because I've been saying we're a 14 loss team the entire time, but the Big Ten Tournmanet Final ends a few hours before the field is announced. By that time, the committe has most likely made their decisions, so while losing that game would make us a 14 loss team, the committee would be evaluating us as a 13 loss team. And you can see from past years, 13 vs 14 losses makes a big difference. We might get lucky and by the time that 14th loss comes, their minds will have already been made up, and if that's the case, it's good news for us.


Your Rooting Interests

If Michigan has any chance at an at-large bid, the following things are what you want to happen

  1. Win @ Maryland. While winning the next 7 is going to be hard no matter what, this next game @ Maryland is by far the most difficult. If we can somehow pull the upset, this gets that much more realistic.
  2. Root against all bubble teams, especially the ones mentioned above. For obvious reasons.
  3. Root for Michigan State or Indiana to get the 3 seed. At this point, we need wins against as many top teams as possible. Our most likely route in the Big Ten Tourney runs through the bottom half, against the 2 and 3 seeds. Of the teams left battling for those seeds, Purdue would be the least helpful for our resume, and they are currently the 3 seed. Root for Indiana or MSU to take that spot, as beating them would be a lot more helfpul and give us an extra RPI Top 50 or 25 win.
  4. Root for Penn State ad Nebraska. Their RPI ranks right now are 106 and 108 respectively right now. Getting them in the top 100 would be another benefit to our resume.
  5. Root for NJIT and EMU. Just to make our bad losses less bad.





February 22nd, 2015 at 5:05 PM ^

Michigan is currently #94 at Massey (pick your ranking system of choice, it doesn't much matter). The cut-off for an at-large bid is #48.

That means there are 45 teams ahead of Michigan for that last pick. One of them is Syracuse who doesn't count, 4-6 of them will win conference tournaments and thus won't need at at-large. That still leaves a bubble of around 40 teams.

I'm not going into each evening with a list of 40 teams I hope lose.


February 22nd, 2015 at 5:14 PM ^

Not going to happen, but if you're looking for rooting interests to make it happen. Root for both NJIT and EMU. They both have winning records right now and with a hot streak, both could wind up with 20 wins.


February 22nd, 2015 at 5:48 PM ^

No, but I am not counting them out of the Big Ten tourney.  This could be what they needed to go on a nice streak.  You never know.  It would be really nice to see them get Sparty in the Big Ten Tournament and get a measure of revenge, too.


February 22nd, 2015 at 6:37 PM ^

I've been thinking for a while that we have a shot to make a run in the Big Ten Tourney. Most of our loses have been close, we just haven't been able to finish the games.

Similarly I don't think there's any team in the Big Ten that out talents us significantly besides Wisconsin. Any other team, on a neutral court, I think we have the potential to beat.

Those two points are really what got me to write this. I think beating Wisconsin, which we'll pretty much have to do if we want to win the Big Ten Tourney, is going to happen. So if it doesn't, then what care the chances we can still somehow get a bid?

Assuming we wouldn't match up with Wisconsin until the BTT final, I think every other game until that is winable. The only exception being our next game, @ Maryland. I would be shocked if we win that. But if we do, I don't see why we can't win out and make a run. Granted, winning each game individually sounds fine, but winning 7 in a row is a fat chance.


February 22nd, 2015 at 7:22 PM ^

No way, a gritty undermanned team that I hope wins a game in the BTT and at least one in the NIT. If you want to play the "shoulda, coulda, woulda, game, consider the choke OT loss at Illinois, the loss to Nova in which we led fairly late by 8, and the losses to NJIT and Eastern Mich. Reverse those and we are 8-7 in conference and 18-9 overall.

And IF Mcgary didn't smoke weed and Levert and Walton stayed healthy...:) but, as has been said before, if the Queen had balls, she d be King.


February 22nd, 2015 at 7:47 PM ^

win those NJT and EMU games and win one of the 3 OT games  and that Villanova game we let slip away and wed be 18-9 right now with a good chance at a at large...hearbreaking


February 22nd, 2015 at 8:18 PM ^

since the D2 Hillsdale win doesn't count.

And since we'll very likely be knocking off Wiscy in that scenario, why not go all the way and take the BTT?


February 22nd, 2015 at 9:00 PM ^

But I didn't account for that just because I didn't want to have to go through and look for every team I listed and do the same. Just quickly MSU in 2011 played and beat Chaminade as one of their wins, so technically they went 18-14.

And in my scenario we're the 7 seed, so Wisconsin wouldn't be until the final. Obviously that can change if we're the 8/9 seed, but for the purposes of seeing if we can get an at large, we'd lose that game. But yes I agree, let's just win the BTT and remove all doubt.


February 22nd, 2015 at 9:31 PM ^

are bad. But we do have a good track record of making it with 13 losses so why not? I'll shar in your optimism until the MD game. If we lose, it's only NIT or out.


February 23rd, 2015 at 1:11 PM ^

In terms of conference tournaments, it varies.

A team like Penn State when they had 14 losses made it to the Big Ten Title game, meaning they were 16-13 going into the Big Ten Tourney, pretty much right where we would be if we win out.

Every other 14 loss team lost in their second or third game, none in the first.

In the 13 loss teams, it really varies. Some lost in the first round, some made it to the finals.

As for bad losses, it varies once again. Some teams had no "bad losses", while some were like USC in 2011 and had a ton. Even that Penn State I mentioned above had a home los to 15-15 Maine that year.

And here's the thing with bad losses, it can be hard to quantify after the fact. For Michigan now, I can just say how many RPI sub 100 teams have they lost to. And you can see from this year's bubble, Michigan isn't alone with bad losses.

Looking at the past however is harder. I didn't bother to check RPI's for potential bad losses of past teams, since that seems difficult and I don't know how readily available that is. It's easiest to go off of record and the such.

But here's why I think it's hard to define:

A team like Tennessee when they had 14 losses. They had an awful loss to 10-20 Charlotte. They lost to a D2 school in an exhibition game, which doesn't count against their record but it does perception wise. They also lost to a College of Charleston team that lost in the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Now take a team like South Florida in 2012 when they had 13 losses. They lost to Old Dominion that year, who went 22-14 and lost in the quarter finals of the CIT.

EMU is 17-10 currently, and could reach 20 wins before postseason play. They could definitely reach the quarter-finals of the CIT this year, in which case they're no worse than Old Dominion.

NJIT is 16-11. They're not going to make any postseason tournament most likely because they are an independent, but 16-11 is no 10-20 Charlotte.

How do you define bad losses? If you say it's to a team like Charlotte, than no, most teams don't have those, but neither does Michigan this year. EMU and NJIT are significantly better than Charlotte in 2010-11.

If you say NJIT and EMU count, then honestly a lot of bubble teams have losses like that, and Michigan is not alone at all.



February 24th, 2015 at 2:22 AM ^

I guess the answer is yes there's an outside chance. Fun to think about. Thanks for the analysis.

I would hire you for this type of curiosity, detailed analysis, and silver lining approach.

Keep attacking the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!

Exams are over-rated...clap....clap...clapclapclap.