With Michigan in the midst of a conference championship race and set to take on pesky Northwestern tonight, it’s easy to feel stressed about the implications of this game. A loss will all but put the Wolverines out of the conference race. But think of it this way: that’s a good problem to worry about. In previous years, the Wolverines were fighting for their tournament lives at this point of the year – or not in the conversation at all. Now, Michigan fans don’t have to worry about whether or not the Wolverines will make the tournament. The only concern is what number will be next to Michigan’s name on Selection Sunday.
Following a win at home over Ohio State on Sunday, Michigan’s tournament resume is looking very good. With four difficult but winnable games ahead, the Wolverines could continue to improve their tournament resume. The hardest test remaining will come tonight against the Wildcats, who are fighting to get into the tournament for the first time in school history. For now, most bracketologists have the Wolverines as a three or a four seed, up a spot from last week’s predictions as a four or five seed.
After the jump find an in-depth look at Michigan’s resume, a roundup of what notable bracketologists are saying about the Wolverines, a look at the Big Ten’s NCAA tournament worthy teams and more. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)
- Record: 19-7 (10-4 Big Ten) [All records are Division 1 Only]
- RPI: 14
- SOS: 9
- Home Record: 14-0
- Away Record: 3-6
- Neutral Record: 2-1
- vs. RPI Top 50: 7-5
- vs. RPI Top 100: 3-1
- Lunardi/ESPN: 3 seed vs. Drexel (Nashville)
- Glockner/SI: 3 seed vs. Akron (Louisville)
- Jerry Palm/CBS: 3 seed vs. Iona (Nashville)
- Crashing the Dance: 4 seed
- Bracket Matrix: 3 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. With five teams in the Top 25 and five teams with 20 or more wins, the Big Ten still remains arguably the best conference in the country. If the season ended today, the Big Ten would likely put seven teams into the Big Dance.
- Michigan State (21-5 overall, 11-3 Big Ten): Here come the Spartans. After starting the year un-ranked and with very low expectations from everyone outside East Lansing, Michigan State now sits alone at the top of the conference standings and is even projected as a 1 seed in some brackets.
- Ohio State (22-5, 10-4): A loss at Michigan dropped the Buckeyes to a tie for second in the conference standings, but some bracketlogists still have them slated as a one-seed. A matchup against Michigan State on the last game of the season could very well decide which of the two teams comes away with a one seed and/or which team wins at least a share of conference title.
- Michigan (19-7, 10-4): With a win over the Buckeyes on Sunday, the Wolverines finally enter the lock column. With an RPI and an SOS in the top-15 and an unblemished record at home, the question now isn’t if, but where will Michigan land in the brackets?
Should be in
- Wisconsin (20-7, 9-5): The Badgers missed out on recent opportunities for statement home wins against Ohio State and Michigan State and sit at fourth place in the conference. They’re still in great shape to make the tournament and are not mathematically eliminated from the Big Ten title race, most bracketologists have them around a four or five seed on the S-curve.
- Indiana (20-7, 8-7): After a loss at Iowa last week, the Hoosiers continue to struggle on the road, but home wins against Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio State remain huge on their Tournament resume. Most brackets still have Indiana as a 4 or a 5 seed.
- Purdue (17-10, 7-7): Guards Kelsey Barlow and D.J. Byrd, both big contributors for the Boilermakers, were both involved in a bar altercation late Thursday night, leading to the dismissal of Barlow and a one-game suspension for Byrd. That could spell doom for Purdue, but with four games to go, they’re still slated as a nine or 10 seed in the brackets.
- Northwestern (16-10, 6-8): Following a win at home against Minnesota on Saturday, the Wildcats have finally reached the right side of the bubble and are projected as a 12 seed or one of the last four in. But a matchup against Michigan tonight looms absolutely huge for Northwestern’s chances of receiving its first-ever Tournament bid. A win could do wonders but a loss makes the road to .500 in league play difficult with games at Penn State, against Ohio State and at Iowa left on the schedule.
- Illinois (16-11, 5-9): In a horrendous one month stretch of bad basketball and poor coaching in which the Fighting Illini have lost eight out of nine games, Illinois has effectively gone from a conference contender to sitting on the wrong side of the bubble. At this point, it seems the Fighting Illini are all but dead. Some bracketologists don’t even have Illinois in the last four out. Still, with games against Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, they could climb their way back into the field with a miraculous turnaround. Or not.
- Minnesota (17-10, 5-9): The Golden Gophers have continued to fight despite the absence of star forward Trevor Mbakwe, who tore his ACL before the start of the season. Minnesota still has a shot at a bid but currently sits as one of the first four teams out in most brackets. Three home games remain on the schedule but the Gophers already have nine conference losses and have to face Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Big Ten Games with NCAA Tournament Implications
- Nortwestern at Penn State, 9:00 Saturday: Every game is remains huge for the Wildcats now. Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game at home against Michigan, Northwestern has to prove it can beat the lower tier Big Ten teams. Penn State is out of the Tournament race and would love to play spoiler.
- Indiana at Minnesota, 1:00 Sunday: For Indiana, it’s a chance to get a rare quality conference road win to strengthen its resume. For Minnesota, it’s an ideal chance to begin to creep onto the right side of the bubble as the season winds down.
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.
This past week, the NCAA hosted media members from around the country to come up with a full mock bracket. At the mock selection exercise, media members went through a very similar process to the five-day selection process that the NCAA committee will do come tournament time. They examined each and every team down to the final detail to come up with the bracket, which can be found here. Among the helpful tidbits given by various writers? A good win is a good win, no matter when it comes, RPI is important but not the end-all-be-all, and a solid non-conference schedule is very favorable. John Gasaway writes that the NCAA does an “outstanding” job with its selections and does everything possible to make the process fair.
For the record, Michigan is listed as a 4 seed against Marshall in the mock bracket and was considered as one of 17 teams as a “lock” for the tournament. Ohio State is a 1 seed, and Michigan State is a 2 seed — of course these results came before last weekend’s games.