Michigan isn’t playing its best ball right now and suffered a tough loss at Northwestern on Tuesday night. That much is true.
Yet it also appears that John Gasaway, who recently listed the Wolverines as a team that has “work to do,” is also correct. Gasaway’s assertion even came before Michigan’s road loss to Northwestern.
“The Wolverines are in very good shape in terms of their tournament profile, due largely, though not entirely, to their win at Michigan State on Jan. 13,” Gasaway wrote. “(That win at Texas on Dec. 12 also is aging fairly well.) Nevertheless, there’s room for improvement on the seed line and, in fact, if the season ended today, Michigan might face a top seed in the round of 32.”
For now, though, the Wolverines are safe from the bubble and are around the 8-seed line in most bracket projections, but that would be if the season ended today.
It seems pretty clear that Michigan might want to turn around its misfortunes on the road — the Wolverines have lost their past three away games — if it wants to feel more comfortable come Selection Sunday. Road games against Wisconsin, Penn State and Maryland will be important, while a home matchup against Ohio State looms.
“Let’s talk about Michigan,” Ryan Fagan writes at Sporting News. “The Wolverines, who lost to Northwestern on Tuesday night, picked up solid non-conference wins against Texas and UCLA, and then looked great beating rival Michigan State by 10 points on the road. But … that’s about it for quality wins. I’m not saying they’re in danger of missing the tournament (yet), but that’s not a top-five-seed resume.”
- Record: 18-7
- RPI: 39
- SOS: 62
- Home: 13-1
- Away: 3-5
- Neutral: 2-1
- Quadrant 1: 2-5
- Quadrant 2: 2-2
- Quadrant 3: 6-0
- Quadrant 4: 8-0
Note: Division II games don’t count toward RPI record
- Joe Lunardi/ESPN: 7 seed vs. Virginia Tech — Feb. 8
- Jerry Palm/CBS: 6 seed vs. Houston — Feb .5
- Bracket Matrix: 8 seed — Feb. 7
- Ryan Fagan/Sporting News: 10 seed — Feb. 7
- SI.com: 8 seed vs. North Carolina State — Feb. 5
- Crashing the Dance: 8 seed — Feb. 7
- Joseph Cook/1-3-1 Sports: 8 seed vs. Alabama — Feb. 7
- Chris Dobbertean/SBNation: 6 seed — Feb. 6
- Purdue (23-3, 12 RPI): Before Wednesday, the Boilermakers retain their status as Big Ten team most likely to snag a 1 seed. But Keita Bates-Diop tipped one in with just under three seconds left to play, snapping the nation’s longest winning streak. Saturday’s road matchup against Michigan State looms large — both for the conference championship race and for Purdue’s seeding. The Boilermakers are also the only team in the Big Ten with more than two tier 1 victories — they are 5-2 in those games.
- Michigan State (23-3, 21 RPI): The Spartans are currently the highest-ranked 3 seed according to Bracket Matrix, with an average seed of 2.87. They’re as low as 4 in some rankings, as high as 2 in others. Michigan State is just 2-2 in tier 1 games (home vs. top 30, neutral vs. top 50, road vs. top 75) which means that Saturday’s showdown against Purdue will be critical for its seeding.
- Ohio State (21-5, 16 RPI): Chris Holtmann has done a tremendous job in his first year at the helm. The Buckeyes, led by Keita Bates-Diop, are a very safe bet to make the tourney. And after Wednesday’s win at Purdue, they may be a safe bet to garner a top-4 seed.
Should be in
- Michigan (19-7, 41 RPI): The Wolverines have struggled recently and it hasn’t gone unnoticed; since Feb. 4, their RPI has fallen ten spots thanks to a road loss at Northwestern.
- Maryland (15-10, 62 RPI): The Terrapins have had to deal with the injury bug all season, yet are still within striking distance of a tourney bid. Maryland will get two more shots at quality wins before the end of the regular season with a game at Nebraska on Feb. 13 and a home game against Michigan on Feb. 24.
- Nebraska (18-8, 55 RPI): Nebraska is currently on the outside looking in. But the Cornhuskers do have five of their remaining six games at home, including a crucial matchup with Maryland.
- Penn State (17-9, 89 RPI): The Nittany Lions are probably on the fringe of this category. They’ve got some bad losses, having dropped games to Rider, Wisconsin and Minnesota — all at home, with the latter two classified as Tier 3 losses. Unlike Nebraska, though, Penn State has some big opportunities coming up: home games against Ohio State (a team it has already beaten once this season) and Michigan sandwiched by a game at Purdue. Plus, the Nittany Lions did beat another fringe team in Maryland on Wednesday night. That’s a good start if they hope to make a late run for March.
Bracket Debate: Can Nebraska sneak in?
The Cornhuskers aren’t in the greatest position right now despite winning 9 of their first 13 Big Ten games.
Nebraska only plays Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan, Maryland and Northwestern — the six other highest ranked RPI teams in the Big Ten– once this season. To make matters worse, the Huskers didn’t get Michigan State, Purdue or Ohio State on their home floor for a chance at a real signature win.
Nebraska closes with four of its last five games at home and will likely be favored in all five. It is completely possible that Tim Miles could finish with a 14-4 Big Ten record and miss the NCAA Tournament.
A strong showing at the Big Ten Tournament will likely be critical if the Huskers want to cement a bid.