With three games to go in the regular season, Michigan still has a lot of work to do if it wants to make the Big Dance. The good news is the Wolverines didn’t play themselves out of the picture in the past week, but unfortunately, they didn’t do anything to play themselves into the NCAA Tournament either.
A last-second loss at Illinois and an overtime win at Iowa leave Michigan squarely on the bubble with a key matchup with No. 12 Wisconsin looming on Wednesday. Michigan has yet to capture a quality win this season and beating Wisconsin would give John Beilein’s club the ammo it needs to get the nod over other bubble teams.
Currently, ESPN doesn’t even list Michigan in its Bracketology, but let’s take a look at how the Wolverines stack up against some of the other comparable bubble teams from major conferences.
|Team||Record||Conf. Pos.||Conf. Rank||RPI||KenPom||SOS||v. Top 50
||v. Top 100
If you had to compare those resumes without knowing which team is which, what teams would you choose? All but one of these teams is predicted to make the tournament according to ESPN’s Bracketology. That one team left out is Michigan. But in looking at these resumes, I would certainly argue that Michigan is at least in the top half of these nine teams.
Team A is Michigan State, a projected 11 seed. The Spartans have quality wins over RPI #36 Washington, RPI #18 Wisconsin, and RPI #39 Minnesota, but losses to Penn State, Iowa, and at home to Michigan don’t help their case.
Team B is Clemson, another team that lost to Michigan. The Tigers don’t really have a quality win and lost to RPI #119 South Carolina and RPI # 146 Virginia. It has a chance to pick up a major win next Wednesday at Duke, but the ACC is relatively weak this year and Clemson’s strength of schedule ranks second worst among the teams on this list.
Team C is Michigan. Aside from Michigan State, Michigan has the most wins vs. RPI top 100 teams of any of the teams on this list, plus wins over Michigan State and Clemson. Michigan also has the third toughest strength of schedule of the teams on this list. A loss to RPI #177 Indiana hurts, as well as no signature wins, but Michigan gets plenty of opportunity with Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan State remaining.
Team D is Oklahoma State. Having lost nine of its last 12, Oklahoma State should be one of the last teams considered on this list. Wins over RPI #31 Kansas State and RPI #29 Missouri help, but the Cowboys stand 11th in the Big 12 and just lost to Kansas by 27.
Team E is Baylor, which has a win over RPI #26 Texas A&M and a win over Oklahoma State, who’s also on this list. Losses to RPI #145 Iowa State and RPI #141 Texas Tech don’t help the Bears’ case, and they are tied for the fewest wins over RPI Top 50 teams of all the teams on this list.
Team F is Alabama, an interesting study. The only SEC team on this list, the Crimson Tide have the best record and the best conference record on this list. If ‘Bama wins the SEC, we won’t even be able to include it as a bubble team since it will earn an automatic bid, but for now, we’ll examine. The SEC is the weakest of the major conferences and Alabama’s schedule ranks 128th in the NCAA. The best out-of-conference team it played was Purdue, which handed the Tide a 19 point loss. Alabama did beat RPI #16 Kentucky, but lost to RPI #117 St. Peter’s, RPI #165 Iowa, RPI #114 Arkansas, and RPI #137 Providence. It also lost to Oklahoma State from this list. Fair or not, a weak conference will probably get the Tide into the tournament over a more qualified team.
Team G is Marquette, a projected 11 seed in ESPN’s Bracketology. In contrast to Alabama, Marquette plays in the nation’s toughest conference, the Big East, and for the most part, has held its own with wins over RPI #10 Notre Dame and RPI #19 Syracuse. The Golden Eagles played nearly everybody tough, losing to Duke by five, Wisconsin by five, Pitt by eight, Louisville by one, UConn by eight, Villanova by five, and Georgetown by nine. Marquette really hasn’t been beaten bad all season.
Team H is Minnesota, another Big Ten foe that Michigan plays on Saturday. The Gophers have wins over RPI #11 North Carolina and RPI #7 Purdue. Losses to RPI #146 Virginia and RPI #177 Indiana don’t help the Gophers’ case, but like Michigan, Minnesota has a chance to play its way into the tournament with Michigan State, Michigan, and Penn State left to play.
Team I is Boston College, which has the second toughest strength of schedule on this list. Similar to Michigan, BC has no quality wins, but only one bad loss (to RPI #166 Yale). Unlike Michigan, BC doesn’t have a good opportunity to play its way into the tournament, with games against Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest left.
If I had to rank the teams on this list for NCAA Tournament likelihood, based solely on resume to this point, it would go like this: Marquette, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Baylor, Clemson, Boston College, Alabama, and Oklahoma State.
But the tournament selection isn’t today and there’s still work left to do. Michigan has a golden opportunity on Wednesday, hosting Wisconsin. A win would surely put Michigan on ESPN’s Bracketology radar. A loss would set up must-wins at Minnesota on Saturday and over Michigan State next Saturday. They’re still probably must-wins, but Wednesday is the key.