January is winding down, which means it’s time to re-introduce the UM Hoops Bracket Watch. Michigan finds itself in a somewhat unfamiliar position this season: vying for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. The conference season is still young, but it’s not too early to project possibilities of where the Wolverines will land come tournament time.
Michigan is coming off of perhaps its biggest win of the season, on the road against then-No. 9 Minnesota. The win puts Wolverines back into a strong position to grab a No. 1 seed in the tournament and that’s where most bracketologists are projecting John Beilein’s team. If Michigan continues its strong play, the Wolverines are also almost certain to draw opening round games at the Palace of Auburn Hills, just 55 miles from Ann Arbor.
After the jump, check out what bracketologists are saying about Michigan, as well as in in-depth look at the Wolverines’ resume and case for a No. 1 seed. You’ll also find assessments of other Big Ten teams with as many as seven projected as potential NCAA tournament teams.
- Record: 16-1
- RPI: 5
- SOS: 13
- Home: 10-0
- Away: 3-1
- Neutral: 3-0
- vs. RPI Top 50: 3-1
- vs. RPI Top 100: 9-1
- Joe Lunardi/ESPN: 1 seed vs. Norfolk State/Southern (Auburn Hills/Indianapolis)
- Andy Glockner/SI: 1 seed vs. Bryant (Auburn Hills/Los Angeles)
- Jerry Palm/CBS: 2 seed vs. Weber State (Auburn Hills/Indianapolis)
- Crashing the Dance: 1 seed
- Bracket Matrix: 1 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. The Big Ten is widely considered the nation’s best conference, and so far this conference season teams of all tiers have been solidly beating up on each other.
- Michigan (16-1 overall, 4-1 Big Ten, 5 RPI): Michigan appears to be a solid 1 seed for now, but in a tough conference like the Big Ten, that will be difficult to hold on to. The Wolverines have three very winnable games coming up before facing off against Indiana at Assembly Hall.
- Indiana (16-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten, 13 RPI): Indiana is oscillating between a 2 and a 3 seed for now. Coming off a home loss against Wisconsin, the Hoosiers bounced back by holding off Northwestern on the road. They should handle Penn State at home, but Michigan State coming to town will provide a tough test on the 27th.
- Minnesota (15-3 overall, 3-2 Big Ten, 7 RPI): After dominating in non-conference play and notching a few convincing victories against Memphis, Stanford and on the road against Florida State, Minnesota looked poised for a great Big Ten season. After dropping two straight, albeit to Indiana and Michigan, it may be time to re-adjust expectations even if only slightly. Still, the Gophers are holding onto a 3 seed in most projections and appear to be a lock.
Should Be In:
- Michigan State (16-3 overall, 6-1 Big Ten, 14 RPI): The Spartans continue to cash in on an early-season win against Kansas on a neutral floor in early November. With a recent victory at home against Ohio State and their only loss in-conference being at Minnesota, Michigan State has a strong resume and is solidly in the 3-4 seed range and their Tuesday night win over Wisconsin moves them steadily closer to the “lock” range.
- Ohio State (14-4 overall, 4-2 Big Ten, 26 RPI): Ohio State’s projected seed fluctuates a bit between the various experts, with Joe Lunardi projecting them as a 4 and Crashing The Dance’s system placing the Buckeyes as low as a 6 seed. The Buckeyes scored a big win against Michigan at home but recently dropped one on the road to Michigan State.
- Wisconsin (13-6 overall, 4-2 Big Ten, 58 RPI): Wisconsin is headed in the opposite direction of Minnesota. Following up an underwhelming non-conference slate with a surprisingly impressive start to Big Ten play including a massive win at Indiana. Right now the Badgers look like a tournament team around the 8 or 9 seed lines but a home loss to Michigan State won’t help.
- Illinois (14-5 overall, 2-4 Big Ten, 28 RPI): The Illini are flailing in-conference after a 1-loss non-conference performance. A combination of poor shooting and non-existent defense have resulted in some ugly home losses, and right now Illinois is hovering between an 8-10 seed in most projections. The Illini need to right the ship — quickly — if they want to keep their spot.
- Iowa (13-6 overall, 2-4 Big Ten, 65 RPI): Despite its loss at Ohio State last night, Iowa looks like a team that could play its way into the tournament. Most projections have the Hawkeyes out for now but with so any winnable games remaining, look for Iowa to make a late push at a tournament spot.
Bracket Debate: Seed vs. Location
Every team wants to see a #1 by its name on Selection Sunday but is it worth it for a team like Indiana or Michigan to get shipped to the West Region? A trip to Indianapolis as a No. 2 seed seems a whole lot more intriguing than a trip to Los Angeles as a No. 1 seed with a west coast team – Arizona perhaps? – as the two seed in the same bracket.
Duke appears destined for Washington D.C. while Kansas is the prohibitive favorite to earn the No. 1 seed at Cowboys Stadium. Michigan, Louisville and Indiana are all likely to fluctuate around the 1 and 2 seed lines until Selection Sunday and all three schools will be hoping to see their names in the Midwest Regional.
In Jerry Palm’s latest bracket Michigan is just a No. 2 seed but finds itself paired with Syracuse as a No. 1 seed in the Midwest. That outcome might be preferable to Andy Glockner’s bracket which has Michigan as a No. 1 seed paired with Arizona in Los Angeles. Early on, this is the storyline to watch for bracketing purposes as things play out over the next two months until the brackets are announced.
*Records and RPIs as of 8:00 a.m. on January 23rd.