To put it simply, it was a big week for Michigan. After a home loss to Ohio State left the Wolverines (6-6 Big Ten, 16-9 overall) leaning on the wrong edge of the bubble, Derrick Walton Jr. — who shared Big Ten Player of the Week with Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy — and the rest of the team issued a course correction. A 29-point romp over Michigan State last Tuesday coupled with a road win (!) at Indiana on Sunday pushed Michigan closer to the right side of things.
With just six games left on the regular season conference schedule, here is the first edition of our annual Bracket Watch feature to track Michigan’s standing in various bracketology updates and follow the NCAA Tournament process across the Big Ten.
While Michigan’s performance may have cemented itself as a “Bubble In” team for now, there are still plenty of chances to either move up or down before Selection Sunday. Home games this Thursday against No. 11 Wisconsin and on Feb. 26 against No. 16 Purdue could strengthen Michigan’s resume, while four more road games loom large — including trips to Minnesota this Sunday and a trip to Evanston to face a Northwestern team that seemingly clinched a bid with a win over the Badgers two nights ago.
The Wolverines have struggled away from Crisler all season — they are just 1-6 on the road this season — but at this point need to pick up as many wins as possible.
- Record: 16-9
- RPI: 58
- SOS: 47
- Home: 13-3
- Away: 1-6
- Neutral: 2-0
- vs. RPI top-50: 2-6
- vs. RPI top-100: 9-8
- Joe Lunardi/ESPN: 11 seed vs. Notre Dame — February 13
- Jerry Palm/CBS: 10 seed vs. Xavier — February 13
- Ryan Fagan/Sporting News: 8 seed — February 13
- SI.com: Last four in; 12 seed vs. Wake Forest — February 13
- Crashing the Dance: 10 seed — February 12
- Bracket Matrix: 11 seed (81 of 103 brackets) — February 13
- Wisconsin (21-4, 23 RPI): While it may have seemed harsh that the Badgers were left out of the preliminary top-16 seeds released by the NCAA Committee, on second look, that ranking does make sense — Wisconsin has a gaudy record, but its SOS (No. 76) is mediocre. In a down year for the Big Ten, being the best team out of the conference probably won’t be enough to snag a top-2 seed.
- Purdue (20-4, 19 RPI): The Boilermakers are cruising along and actually have a higher RPI than conference foe Wisconsin. Led by Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan, Purdue also boasts a 5-3 record against the RPI top-50.
- Maryland (20-4, 22 RPI): The Terps had a relatively weak non-conference schedule, but that hasn’t appeared to have hurt them. They are in a good spot at the moment, and the rest of the season should dictate just how comfortable of a spot they have once the tournament rolls around.
- Northwestern (19-6, 33 RPI): It has been a long time coming, but its hard to imagine the Wildcats ending up anywhere other than the NCAA Tournament after a big win over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center.
- Minnesota (18-7, 24 RPI): A recent five-game losing streak got the Golden Gophers to where they are now, which is on the bubble. But Minnesota is still in a relatively good spot, now has a three-game winning streak, and also has a manageable schedule the rest of the way with games against Michigan, Wisconsin and Purdue that could help the team move up.
- Michigan State (15-10, 41 RPI): It has been a rocky year for the Spartans, who are still somewhat buoyed by their crazy non-conference schedule. Miles Bridges, though, looks back to being his normal self, and the old adage still applies: never doubt Tom Izzo in March (except against Middle Tennessee State, perhaps).
- Michigan (16-9, 58 RPI): The Wolverines were leaning toward the “Bubble Out” section before a pair of crucial wins against Michigan State and Indiana.
- Indiana (15-11, 93 RPI) and Ohio State (15-11, 63 RPI) both appear to be on the outside looking in at this point with the Hoosiers trending in the wrong direction. Indiana has lost 5 of its last 6 and its marquee non-conference wins over North Carolina and Kentucky are a distant memory.
Bracket Debate: Should any Big Ten team make the top-16?
There was a lot of consternation earlier in the week when it was revealed that not one Big Ten team made the NCAA’s top-16 seeds as of Saturday afternoon. The truth, though, is that the conference is slightly down this year at the top. Wisconsin and Purdue would have the best arguments, but the Badgers turned around and lost to Northwestern at home on Sunday — not providing much ground to stand on.
Of course, there is still time left for all teams to move up and down, so there can be no definitive answer just yet. But it appears the committee has things accurately gauged — for now.
Perhaps the bigger concern is for the league’s many bubble teams. What does it mean for Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota’s tournament hopes if they are playing in a league that doesn’t have a single top-16 team?
What do you think? Let your opinion be heard below in the comments section. Do you think a Big Ten team should be in the top-16 right now? Do you see a Big Ten team moving into that range before the tournament starts? Will a bubble team find itself disappointed because of the down year in the conference?