2022-23 Season

Bracket Watch: February 24th, 2023

Tony Natoci is back this year to provide bracket updates as needed as we lead up to the NCAA Tournament. Natoci, who correctly predicted Michigan’s seed and first round opponent in last year’s NCAA Tournament, publishes his own bracket at Heartbreak City and will outline where Michigan stands in current bracketology models, both in his own bracket and notable national brackets, along with updates and insights about the process, key bubble games to watch, and more.

Well friends, here we are again. I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t sure I’d be writing one of these this year, but late-season road wins have a way of turning things around on a dime, and last night’s 58-45 grinder at Jersey Mike’s Arena was just the shot in the arm Michigan’s tournament resume needed to get back on the bubble. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, well, before last night, Michigan wasn’t even really on the bubble at all.

But hey, baby steps. To get into the tournament, you first need to get in the neighborhood, and Michigan is finally knocking on that door. As Dylan put it in the most recent Pin Down podcast, the Wolverines are finally in position to be in position. Win at home on Senior Day and the stakes get even higher, and after all this team has been through, that’s about all you can ask for. My advice to all of you: Strap in and enjoy the ride.

For much of the 2022-23 campaign, Michigan’s path to the NCAA Tournament has been anything but straightforward. An early-season trip to Brooklyn exposed Michigan for what they were (and to be honest, what they still are) – a young, talented group that can beat a tournament team by 30 one night and lose to a fringe bubble team by 25 the next. A disastrous trip to London and a frustrating trip to Charlotte were book-ended by a pair of deflating home losses to the Cavaliers and the Chippewas – the latter of which has turned into one of the worst losses by any team this entire season (shout out to Iowa for saving Michigan from the distinction of having the worst).

Safe to say this wasn’t the way Juwan Howard drew it up in the fall.

But unlike most of the midwest, this past week has seen Michigan’s icy tournament hopes thaw a little bit. A pair of double-digit conference wins against KenPom top-35 teams will right the ship pretty quickly, and the fact that the Wolverines got the job done in two different ways feels especially encouraging given that UM had, up until recently, seemed to go out of its way to let close, winnable games slip away in a new and uniquely gut-wrenching fashion every time.

To wit – Michigan’s adjusted offensive rating of 135 (per Torvik) against Michigan State was their second-best of the season, and they followed that up with their second-best adjusted defensive rating of the year against Rutgers (77.8). In the Big Ten, you never know if you’ll be asked to win a barn-burner or a bar-fight, and if you’re going to make some noise in March, you’d better be prepared to do both.

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