We’re now a week into February, and March is slowly but surely creeping into view. We’re at the point in the season where every regular season game means that much more, especially for teams fighting to get off the bubble or battling for a conference championship. With a win at home against Indiana Wednesday and a loss in East Lansing to Michigan State Sunday, the Wolverines still are in good position for a solid seed on Selection Sunday. Most experts still have Michigan slated safely as a four or five seed in their projected fields of 68.
With a very manageable end to the conference schedule – Michigan’s final four road games are against Nebraska, Northwestern, Illinois and Penn State, all teams at the middle or bottom of the conference standings – the Wolverines could greatly improve their conference record and garner some solid road wins. Conversely, if Michigan doesn’t take care of business against teams that it should, the slide down the S-curve could be just as quick.
After the jump find an in-depth look at Michigan’s resume, a roundup of what notable bracketologists says about the Wolverines thus far, a look at the Big Ten’s NCAA tournament worthy teams and more. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)
- Record: 16-7 (7-4 Big Ten) [Division 1 Only]
- RPI: 15
- SOS: 11
- Home Record: 12-0
- Away Record: 2-6
- Neutral Record: 2-1
- vs. RPI Top 50: 7-5
- vs. RPI Top 100: 8-6
Every week leading up to Selection Sunday, we’ll have a full run-down of predictions from some of the nation’s most widely-read bracketologists. Here’s a look into what each expert is saying with three weeks remaining until March.
- Lunardi/ESPN: 4 Seed vs. Oral Roberts (Nashville)
- Glockner/SI: 5 seed vs. Long Beach State (Albuquerque)
- Jerry Palm/CBS: 5 seed vs. Xavier (Portland)
- Crashing the Dance: 5 seed
- Bracket Matrix: 5 seed
Around the Big Ten
We’ll also keep a close eye on the rest of the Big Ten and let you know who’s in, who should be in, who could be on the bubble and which games this week have the biggest tournament implications this week. If the season ended today, the Big Ten would likely put eight teams into the Big Dance.
- Ohio State (20-3 overall, 8-2 Big Ten): The Buckeyes won at Wisconsin on Saturday for the first time since 2000 and remain alone atop the conference standings. Following their fifth straight win, most bracketologists continue to have them as a 1 seed.
- Michigan State (18-5, 7-3): The Spartans rank sixth in RPI and also boast the second-toughest schedule in the nation. With a loss at Illinois last Tuesday and a win at home against Michigan on Sunday, they remain as 2 or 3 seed on most brackets.
Should Be In
- Michigan (17-7, 7-4): Despite a loss Sunday in East Lansing, the Wolverines still stand in good position with an RPI of 15 and seven wins over teams in the RPI top 50, a total which is tied for the best in the country with Baylor.
- Indiana (18-6, 6-6): Indiana remains as a 4 or a 5 seed in most experts’ brackets, mainly thanks to massive home wins over Ohio State and Kentucky. The Hoosiers also notched their second road win of the conference season with a victory at Purdue on Saturday.
- Wisconsin (18-6, 7-4): Wisconsin had won six in a row before falling to the Buckeyes on Saturday and still remains a 4 or a 5 seed in most brackets.
- Purdue (15-8, 5-5): After a 78-61 loss at home to Indiana on Saturday, the Boilermakers are sputtering and have now lost four of six. They’ll stay on the bubble in for now, but last night’s near close loss at Ohio State was a golden opportunity.
- Illinois (16-7. 5-5): The Fighting Ilini continue to be the most difficult team in the conference to figure out. After winning three in a row at the start of January, they’ve now lost four of five, although a win against Michigan State last Tuesday is helping to keep them on the right side of the bubble. The Illini still have trips to Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin and have to host both the Wolverines and Boilermakers.
- Minnesota (17-7, 5-6): The Golden Gophers have now won five of seven, most recently including a much-needed road win at Nebraska on Sunday.
- Northwestern (14-8, 4-6): A solid week with a win at home over Nebraska and on the road at Illinois has the Wildcats’ tournament hopes alive. With a game at home against Iowa and at Purdue this week, Northwestern could move to 6-6 in league play and into the tournament picture by next week.
Big Ten Games with NCAA Tournament Implications
- Northwestern at Purdue, 6:00 Sunday: A win could possibly propel the Wildcats onto the right side of the bubble and a loss for the Boilermakers could push them out of the projected field. This is a huge one for both sides.
- Illinois at Indiana, 8:00 Thursday: If the Fighting Illini are going to safely hop off the bubble, they’re going to need a solid road win or two down the stretch. With three of their last four road games at Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, this could be one of their best shots. The Hoosiers have lost just one game at home this season but their below average defense could help Illinois’ struggling offense.
And to top things off, we’ll take a look at one national game or storyline from the week before that could have a dramatic impact on the NCAA Tournament picture.
With the many ways to try to predict who will get into the Tournament come March, things can get pretty confusing at times. RPI, strength of schedule, body of work, top 50 wins… Buzz words and metrics fly around and it’s tough not to feel like you’re in math class. Basketball Prospectus’ Dan Hanner discovered a simple metric designed to simplify the process.
In his article “How to End Bubble Speculation in Eight Words”, Drew Cannon gives this simple eight-word equation: “Add a team’s KenPom rank to their RPI.” Cannon has used the equation since 2007 and has had remarkable results. Last year, the equation predicted 66 of the 68 teams correctly. According to Cannon’s current rankings, Northwestern would be the last team in with an “EBS” (Easiest Bubble Solver) of 115. So if you find yourself frustrated with all the number crunching, give Cannon’s equation a shot. It’s hard to argue with the results, which are surely as good as any at this point in time.