While Michigan’s recent stretch of hot play — and an impressive three-game winning streak over Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin — came to somewhat of an end Sunday night at The Barn, the loss didn’t hurt Wolverines’ NCAA Tournament chances.
In fact, Michigan (7-7 Big Ten, 17-10 overall) actually improved its projected seed on nearly every bracket released over the past week based on the strength of a 64-58 home win last Thursday against the 16th-ranked Badgers, giving it a split on the week. While the Wolverines remain on the bubble, they continue to inch closer toward the field. And yes, a road win over a team as highly-regarded as the Golden Gophers would definitely have boosted Michigan’s resume, but the Wolverines still have several remaining games on the schedule to move up (or down).
As things stand today, most bracketologists have the Wolverines projected as a 9-seed and they are in all 94 brackets on the Bracket Matrix.
- Record: 17-10
- RPI: 55
- SOS: 33
- Home: 14-3
- Away: 1-7
- Neutral: 2-0
- vs. RPI top-50: 3-7
- vs. RPI top-100: 9-9
- Joe Lunardi/ESPN: 9 seed vs. VCU — February 20
- Jerry Palm/CBS: 9 seed vs. Iowa State — February 19
- Ryan Fagan/Sporting News: 9 seed — February 20
- SI.com: 10 seed vs. Xavier — February 20
- Crashing the Dance: 9 seed — February 19
- Bracket Matrix: 10 seed — February 20
- Joseph Cook/1-3-1 Sports: 10 seed — February 20
- Purdue (22-5, 21 RPI): The Boilermakers are in the midst of a five-game winning streak that could easily extend to nine before the end of the regular season. With a win against Wisconsin earlier this year, Purdue appears to be a good bet to be the highest-seeded Big Ten team given its current trajectory.
- Wisconsin (22-5, 24 RPI): The Badgers halted a brief two-game losing streak with a win over Maryland on Sunday. Strong performances from Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig (who missed the Michigan game due to a calf injury) were a good sign for a Wisconsin team that has been highly dependent on Ethan Happ as of late.
- Maryland (21-5, 19 RPI): The Terrapins have a gaudy 13-5 record against RPI top-100 opponents, and still hold a higher RPI than conference foes Wisconsin and Purdue despite losing to both of those teams.
- Minnesota (20-7, 23 RPI): The Golden Gophers are back off the bubble after countering a five-game losing streak with a five-game winning streak, including a resume-boosting home win over Michigan Sunday night. Minnesota has an impressive road win at Purdue to boost its resume and impressive computer numbers as well.
- Northwestern (20-7, 37 RPI): A loss against Rutgers would’ve been tough to swallow, but Northwestern still appears to be trending in the right direction. It might be too early to call the Wildcats a lock becuase closer examination reveals only 3 top-50 wins in 9 tries
- Michigan (17-10, 55 RPI): Despite a tough overtime loss Sunday, a split against Wisconsin and Minnesota still inched the Wolverines closer to moving off the bubble.
- Michigan State (16-11, 43 RPI): The Spartans missed yet another chance to grab a quality win after a loss on Saturday against Purdue. They’ve still got an important pair of games left on the schedule against Wisconsin on Feb. 26 and at Maryland on March 5, though Michigan State will be without the services of senior guard Eron Harris, who suffered a season-ending injury against Purdue.
- Indiana (15-12, 90 RPI) and Ohio State (15-13, 82 RPI) are still nowhere near making the tournament, moving even farther away since last week’s projections.
Bracket Debate: How high can Michigan go?
A win over Minnesota would’ve helped the Wolverines immensely, immediately standing out as their best road win — easy to say considering there would be just two to compare. Despite some late DJ Wilson heroics, Michigan ended the week with a split that still moved it up the bracket projections, begging the question: just how much can the Wolverines improve their seeding?
Wins over Rutgers and Nebraska wouldn’t do much to improve Michigan’s tournament profile (even though both are on the road), but there are still two games that should be circled on the calendar: a home contest against Purdue on Feb. 25 and a road game at Northwestern on March 1. The Big Ten Tournament beckons, as well. If the season ended today, the Wolverines would be the No. 7 seed in the tournament facing No. 10 seed Penn State, with a rematch against Wisconsin waiting in the next round.
What do you think? Let your opinion be heard below in the comments section. How high of a seed do you think Michigan can earn? What would it take for the Wolverines down the stretch to reach this seed? And if you’re the pessimistic type, what would it take at this point for Michigan to be left out come Selection Sunday?