Entering this week, the belief here at UMHoops was that Michigan needed at least one more win to feel safe. The Wolverines nearly got it, too, on their first try, but Northwestern had something to say about that.
While the missed opportunity to pick up a big win on the road may have carried more weight had Michigan not picked up wins against Wisconsin or Purdue earlier in the second half of the season, the Wolverines did. That left them with a road game against Nebraska — a team which Michigan has not lost to since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten — and the Wolverines rebounded rather nicely, running Nebraska out of the gym thanks to a stellar performance from Derrick Walton Jr. and others.
The 93-57 blowout win should wrap things up for Michigan and take them off the bubble. All that’s left is the Big Ten Tournament, where a couple of chances to maybe get themselves off the 8/9 line await the Wolverines — including a first round rematch against Illinois and Maverick Morgan, whose ‘white-collar’ comment seems to have spurred Michigan’s second-half transformation.
- Record: 20-11
- RPI: 47
- SOS: 36
- Home: 15-3
- Away: 3-8
- Neutral: 2-0
- vs. RPI top-50: 4-7
- vs. RPI top-100: 11-11
- Purdue (25-6, 18 RPI): Purdue is rolling into the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilermakers are 8-1 in their last nine games, have the highest RPI in the league and have the highest KenPom rating in the conference, No. 13, by nine spots. They will most likely be the only Big Ten team to receive a top-four seed.
- Minnesota (23-8, 20 RPI): The Golden Gophers had an eight-game winning streak snapped in their regular season finale against Wisconsin, but that loss hasn’t done much to change their tournament prognostication. Their average seed number in brackets is currently 6.
- Maryland (24-7, 25 RPI): The Terps head into the conference tourney with a little bit of momentum, ripping off two wins after a three-game losing streak. Melo Trimble’s last second three-pointer against Michigan State on Saturday clinched second place in the Big Ten for Maryland. It’ll have the opportunity to pick up a couple more wins heading into the NCAA Tournament with the Big Ten Tournament located just minutes from campus.
- Wisconsin (23-8, 38 RPI): Wisconsin has had one hell of a slide over the past month or so. The Badgers finished the regular season 2-5 in their last seven games, and their average seed number across all brackets (as given by Bracket Matrix) is right around 7 at this point.
- Michigan (20-11, 47 RPI): The Wolverines’ win at Nebraska should have punched their ticket, but they still look to be squarely in the mix for the 8-9 game.
- Northwestern (21-10, 54 RPI): Things were looking pretty dicey for a moment there, but the Wildcats’ (literal) Hail Mary against Michigan appears to have them back in a safe spot. A win over Purdue on Sunday would definitely have done the job, but Northwestern faltered down the stretch.
- Michigan State (18-13, 48 RPI): Two consecutive losses to Illinois and Maryland have things looking a little dicey for the Spartans. They are seeded fifth, though, in the Big Ten Tournament, and should have a chance to pick up one more win against either Penn State or Nebraska. Their RPI — now one spot behind Michigan’s — continues to be pulled up by their impressive early non-conference slate.
- Illinois (18-13, 57 RPI): The Fighting Illini ripped off a four-game winning streak … only to see it come to an end at the hands of conference doormat Rutgers. While that loss was certainly terrible, it may not have dealt a death blow to Illinois’ tourney chances: they face a certain tourney team — Michigan — in the first round of the BTT, and if they win there, get a shot at Purdue. There’s no question that a few more wins are definitely needed, though.
- Iowa (18-13, 72 RPI): The Hawkeyes, led by Peter Jok and ascending sophomore Nicholas Baer, ended the regular season with four consecutive wins, including a pair over Maryland and Wisconsin. Like Illinois, however, they will need a really good Big Ten Tournament to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Early season losses to Memphis and Nebraska Omaha are the biggest blemish on Iowa’s resume.
Bracket Debate: Which top seeds would you want Michigan to be placed with? And are there any you’d prefer the Wolverines not to be in the same region as?
At this point, Michigan seems locked into a tourney bid — and a bid, it appears, that will have them placed in the same four-team grouping as a 1 or 2 seed. It has been somewhat of a wide-open year so far, with last year’s national champion Villanova ranking as KenPom’s second-best team and the runner-up, North Carolina, as the fourth-best. The Wolverines have already faced one team that could end up in that 1-2 range in UCLA. Out of that general grouping of 8-9 teams
Let your opinion be heard below in the comments section. (Villanova, Kansas, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Oregon, Baylor, Louisville and UCLA), who would you prefer Michigan ends up with? Which teams would you prefer Michigan avoids? Which teams do you think the Wolverines match-up best (and worst) against?