Tourney Talk with Mike Fahmie

Dylan Burkhardt

Mike Fahmie of Mike on Sports agreed to answer a couple questions about Michigan’s NCAA tournament chances. Mike knows his stuff and his site is definitely worth a look in the days leading up to Selection Sunday.

Let’s get it out of the way — what does Michigan have to do to make the NCAA tournament? These are basically the three scenarios that I have come up with; how do Michigan’s chances stack up in each situation?

  • Beat Minnesota and lose on Thursday of the BTT? Out.  Keep in mind winning on Saturday likely matches Michigan with either Iowa or IU in the first round.  Losing to either one of those schools is a horrendous last impression to leave on a committee that will be begin flying into the Indianapolis airport that afternoon.  See Illinois State last season.  The Red Birds had a strong profile, but the last impression they left on the committee was a nationally televised 30 point loss to Drake.  Because of that, they missed the cut.  The Wolverines need to turn committee members heads the next week and a half, not repulse them.
  • Beat Minnesota and lose on Friday of the BTT? Squarely on the bubble, but I’d say I like their chances.  The way things are shaping up around the bubble, I really think Michigan will need to win two in the tournament to feel safe.  As I said earlier, this situation likely means they will have beaten a lowly Iowa or IU team the first round, then likely bow out against an Illinois, Penn State, or Wisconsin [ed: They would most likely play Purdue or Illinois in the 2nd round].  While those teams look tourney bound and wouldn’t be considered “bad losses”, I can’t stress enough how much the Wolverines need to leave the committee with a solid last impression
  • Lose to Minnesota, how far do they have to go in the BTT? While the result of the Minnesota/Wisconsin game will surely be big, I’m a firm believer that Saturday’s game will end up being a play-out game for both Michigan and the Gophers.  Making it to Sunday would be rather impressive, but with a sub .500 B10 record, I think they’d need a lot to go right for them around the other bubble teams.  Hate to say it, but losing to Minnesota may leave them at BTT Champs or bust.

How many teams do you see getting in from the Big Ten?

Eight is a big number, and I think it’s just out of reach.  Seven seems most likely.  Michigan State, Purdue, and Illinois are all locked in.  Penn State seems fairly safe despite their low RPI.  With Illinois and Iowa remaining, they should be able to split and get to 10 B10 wins including Purdue, MSU, and Illinois, so I like their chances.  While the Buckeyes are bubbly now, I like their chances to win their final two (@ Iowa later tonight, then home against Northwestern Sunday).  Wisconsin has an RPI of 30 and SOS of 6, which makes them nearly impossible to leave out should they split their final two, one of which is a home tilt with IU.  That leaves us with Michigan and Minnesota, one of which I see making it, the other out.  Should the winner of their meeting Saturday lay an egg in the BTT, the number will drop to 6, but I’m confident that won’t happen.

It seems like people are saying the bubble is pretty “big” this year because there aren’t a lot of mid-majors pushing for at large bids. Is this true and will this help Michigan?

I think you can break that down into two parts.  On one hand, there are a lot of power conference teams vying for at-large spots, and that can’t be a good thing for any of the other teams.  When only 5 spots are remaining, would you rather be competing with 9 teams or 20?  Simple math tells you your odds are better with 9, so I don’t think that helps.  The second part of it does work in the Wolverines favor though.  There won’t really be a lot of conference tournaments you have to sweat out as a bubble team this year.  Sure, you’ll root for Siena to take the MAAC, Butler the Horizon, and Gonzaga the WCC, but outside of that, it’s hard to any mid-majors making it as at-larges.  Davidson has a case, but a loss in their conference tournament would give them 3 SoCon losses this year vs. one quality win.  It’s hard to see Creighton make it as an at-large in what’s turned out to be a disappointing MVC.  Outside of that, you just hope New Mexico doesn’t catch fire (which they’re fully capable of) and winning the MWC, and that another Georgia doesn’t come along and steal a bid.

In-or-out, I say a team you tell me what you think: (The questions were all answered before Tuesday night’s games.)

  • Georgetown: Out.  SOS can only do so much when you’re 6-10 in conference. They need to win at least four in a row from here (B-East tourney included) to get on the at-large radar.
  • Kentucky: In.  They’ll take down Georgia on Wednesday, which sets up a play-in game with Florida over the weekend, which I think they’ll pull off.
  • Michigan:  Out.  The fans in Minneapolis/St. Paul are smart and will know what’s on the line this weekend.  The atmosphere (though at 11 am local time) should through the roof in an already tough place to play.  Hard to see them coming back to A2 with the win.
  • Providence: IN.  Talk about getting new life, the Friars looked left for dead after losing to ND.  Now, they have 10 B-East wins including a big signature win over then #1 Pitt.  Hard to see them missing the cut.
  • Minnesota: IN.  I think they’ll close with two big wins (vs. Wisc, vs. Mich), then pick another up in the BTT to cement their spot.
  • Virginia Tech: OUT.  The Hokies have two huge road wins, but will back into the ACC tournament with losses to Duke, UNC, and a surprisingly strong Florida State team.
  • Penn State: IN.  Hard to see the committee leaving a team that will have won 10 conference games and upset the top three conference teams.
  • Maryland: OUT. The Terps will finish 8-8 after splitting their last two (@ Wake, vs Virginia) and need to pick a couple up in Atlanta.  They’ll fall short, and be left out of the tournament once again.  On another note, the Maryland boosters may begin voicing some displeasure with Gary Williams.
  • UNLV: IN. A big showdown at San Diego State looms this weekend, but regardless of the result, the Rebs have something big in their corner: the MWC tourney will be in Vegas.  I like their chances to at least make it to the championship game, possibly giving the MWC as many as four bids.
  • Florida: OUT.  As I said with Kentucky, the showdown this weekend between the two will be monstrous.  I like the ‘Cats, leaving the Gators in need, once again, of a strong SEC tournament showing, which they’ll, once again, fall short of.

You’re a Michigan fan correct? How painful must picking the NCAA tournament be when your team never seems to make it?

The past couple months have been an absolute roller coaster.  When you follow the field as I do, every game that rolls across ESPNU’s bottom line leaves me thinking “How does that help/hurt Michigan?”.  The conference season has been massively disappointing.  After at one point having the maize-and-blue as high as a five, the fact that the odds aren’t in their favor is as painful as ever.  That being said the inner Maize Rager in me is confident (while the objective bracketologist isn’t).   This team has it in them to win at the old barn.  They showed it at UConn.  Hell, they showed it at Wisconsin for a vast majority of the game.  They can pull this off; it just seems unlikely at best.

Either way, both the objective and homer sides of my basketball viewing eyes can agree this team has the right man in charge, and is clearly on the right track.

Just how good at this are you?

I think Bracketology 2009 Presented by BetUS. com at MikeOnSports. offers a great insight into the field you don’t get anywhere else.  Not only do you get an extremely accurate field (rated #3 on the web last year by Gary Parrish at CBS Sportsline)  but you also get a deeper look as to exactly where your team stands.  I provide in-depth storylines every weekday throughout the season.  Each bracket is accompanied by not only storylines, but what I call The bReAkDoWn, a look as to how safe each team in consideration for the dance is.  More than anything, Bracketology 2009 won’t leave you waiting.  New brackets will be posted Wednesday and Friday this week, then every day from Monday-Selection Sunday.  Speaking of Selection Sunday, Bracketology 2009 offers something you don’t find at most sites: an in-depth live blog explaining my selection process.  From 11am through 6:30 pm, you’ll be able to follow my process from the announcement of the #1 seeds, to listening to me pop bubbles around the country, to be the first to see the final 2009 bracket, and get my in-depth analysis when the bracket is finally released by our friends at CBS.  I think you’ll find good reason to make Bracketology 2009 a great bookmark.  GO BLUE, BEAT THE GOPHERS!

  • Bill

    So, this guy is supposed to be an expert, but wow, he sure is not on the ball about some of the big ten stuff.

    1) Michigan losing in the 2nd round of the big ten tourney (after a win over Minnesota) would not be to PSU or Wisconsin, it would be to Purdue or Illinois.

    2) Minnesota plays home against Wisconsin tonight, not at Wisconsin. Big difference.

    3) Assuming Penn State will get to 10 wins is really questionable- they play tomorrow night home against Illinois (9 PM) and then have to turn around and play at Iowa at 2 PM on Saturday. Neither of those is an easy proposition, PSU could easily end up at 9-9.

    Michigan beats Minny and wins one in the big ten tourney, they are in, no doubt.

  • I updated #2.

    Good point on #1 though, it would seem we would face PU or ILL.

    #1 I’m mixed… They have two tough games but winning them isn’t out of the question. They did beat Illinois the first time, despite the lowly 38-33 score and that was in Assembly Hall. Iowa is a team beneath them in the standings but one that is playing well. In that kind of situation you have to make some assumptions and that isn’t that bold.

  • Bill

    Right, I absolutely wasn’t saying that it’s out of the question that PSU wins one or even both of those games, but I also could see them losing both- Illinois will be out for revenge, and Iowa at home on senior day with little rest for PSU will be a tall order- Iowa has proven to be very tough at home, barely losing a lot of games in addition to beating M.

    Interestingly enough, if M and PSU were tied at 9-9 (and Minnesota lost to Wisco ending up 8-10), PSU would win the tiebreak based on their win over MSU and M would be the 7 seed. However, if M, PSU, and Minnesota all end up tied at 9-9 (Minny beats Wisco), M wins the tiebreak over both, ending up as the 6 seed.

    I think if M beats Minnesota they avoid the dread 8/9 slot where they would have to deal with a tough NW team followed by MSU in round 2- does anyone have a scenario where M could beat Minnesota and end up as the 8 seed?

  • Giddings

    Bill – facing NW wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. If we beat them, that will likely be another Top 100 win to add to the resume (and believe me, every one counts). The same cannot be said about a win over Iowa or IU.

    As for the interview… while I can attest that Mr. Fahmie is extremely intelligent when it comes to sports and did do a great job predicting last year’s bracket, I wholeheartedly disagree with many of his assertions. The list includes:

    1) A Michigan loss on Saturday does not mean “win BTT or bust”… I think making it to the BTT Finals in this scenario is at least as good if not BETTER than winning on Saturday and winning one game in the BTT.
    2) I see PSU losing their next two games to finish 9-9, which would require them to make a deep run in the BTT. They might, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
    3) Providence should not and will not be IN. They’ll lose to Nova on Thursday, finishing 10-8 in the Big East… which looks great on the surface but you have to look at the body of work. Syracuse and Pitt were there only impressive wins (both at home), and they did basically nothing in the non-conference (including losing to Northeastern at home). I see them losing to a team like Georgetown or St. John’s in the Big East Tournament and failing to make the NCAAs.

  • RobL

    what happens if Minny loses to wisc tonight and then beats us. Both Mich and Minny out, barring run in league tourney? Everybody seems to be acting like Minny over Wisc is a sure thing. I don’t. Wisc has a huge revenge factor from the first game and Minny is just falling apart right now.

    Who the heck should we root for tonight?

  • Bill

    I think we root for Minny- their desperation level for Saturday reaches a peak if they lose tonight. They might relax a little bit with a win tonight. On the other hand, there’s the argument about momentum… I don’t know. Root for ejections leading to 1 game suspensions for Minnesota players?

  • Avery Queen

    The thing about PSU losing the next two is I think that might lead to the Big Ten only sending 6 teams. In the scenario where Minnesota loses out, they are obviously done, we finish tied with PSU and I think in that case PSU is most likely out (due to weak non-conference) barring a very strong performance in BTT.

    Now say all three teams finish at 9-9 then I think PSU is still out and I’m not sold that both Minnesota and us make it. I think this puts us at the 6/7 teams mark and probably is dependent on BTT performances.

    So basically I think what PSU does in the next two games is somewhat irrelevant (to us). Because Minnesota has a more similiar resume to ours I feel like we are in more direct competition with them and would really like to see them lose to Wisconsin to get them out of the picture (assuming we win).

  • Dave

    we need at least 3 wins before we can get in ……no matter what we have to get 3 wins……….that would put us ahead of any of these other close teams……..there is very few if any bubble teams that can compare to our resume…..wiith 3 more wins we are in….anything other than that i wouldnt be confident

  • Huh? 3 wins? Is that including the Purdue win? If not Dave you are crazy

  • Adam

    3 would be a stone cold lock. 2 wins I think is a very near lock.

  • Bill


    Good point about NW being another top 100 win, however, if we are playing NW, it means we lost to Minnesota, which means we probably need 2 wins and would need to at least beat Sparty in round 2… Kind of ironic that if we beat Minnesota we will have a much better chance to win 2 in the BTT (Iowa/Indiana followed by Purdue/Illinois looks a lot less daunting then NW following by MSU) but we probably won’t need the 2 wins if we beat Minny.

    What is the consensus about a loss to Minny and then wins over NW and MSU in the big ten tourney? Would that be enough or would we have to also win the semi-final game against Wisco/PSU/OSU/whoever the 4/5 is? I would think wins over NW and MSU would do it since the win over MSU would be such a big win over a highly ranked team.

  • James

    I am willing to bet that Michigan is in with a Minnesota win and a 1st round loss in the tourney. Illinois State is a horrible comparison. ISU had a higher rpi (39), but had ZERO wins over a top 40 RPI team and 4 losses to teams outside the top 100. Their resume is nothing like Michigan’s, so it’s odd that he used them as a reference point. Why not use Arizona from last year as a reference point?

    Similarly, I think Michigan is in if they lose to Minnesota and make it to the BTT finals. A loss to Minny and a loss in the BTT semis and their still on the bubble.

    Hopefully this is all moot and Michigan wins their next 2 or 3 games (or more!). They’ve been playing pretty well. I think they have it in them.

  • James

    …and by “ISU had a higher rpi”, I meant lower rpi.

  • James: I fall closer to your line of thinking. Wanted to bring Mike in and see what he thought and he definitely has a much more pessimistic opinion.

    I really like the Arizona comparison in what seems to be a very similar resume.

  • AC1997

    I think we want to root for Wisconsin tonight. Minny is falling apart already and another loss pretty much demoralizes their tournament hopes and thus I don’t think they or their fans will be as excited about the game this weekend. A win against Wisconsin gets their hopes up and fires them up for this weekend.

    We really need to win Saturday and speculating beyond that is probably not worth the angst.

    If we lose, then I think we have to win two games in the tourny to get back on the bubble. At that point you’re hoping other teams help you out and you get a generous look from the selection committee.

  • noahtahl

    providence resume: Providence – lost home to northeastern, on nuetral court to boston university and st. mary’s college. 2 common opponents with michigan, a 4 point loss home with northeastern(20 point win home for mich.) and 33 point loss at conn(8 point loss for mich). 2-8 vs rpi top 50, michigan, 5-9 vs top 50 rpi. big win: home vs pitt, bad loss: home vs northeastern. + : win vs pitt. -‘s : too many to list.

    how providence gets in : win big east tourney.

    how michigan gets in : either beat minnesota and 1 big 10 tourney game or lose at minnesota and win at least 2 big 10 tourney games.

  • Ken in Vegas

    The selection committee always does something querky. The only question is whether it will be in or against our favor. Don’t we get sympathy points?

  • Adam

    I agree with Noah. I just do not think Providence has a good resume at all. They have beaten NO ONE besides Pitt and Syracuse. Most of their Big East wins are against the likes of Rutgers, South Florida, Depaul, St. John’s and other below average teams. They only played 3 DECENT teams non conference and lost all 3 (Baylor, Boston College and St. Mary’s). Those 3 teams are not even all that great either. The loss to Northeastern is terrible where Michigan beat them by 20. I just don’t think Providence has a good resume so I wonder why so many experts have them “in” as of now. I think they need a good Big East tourney run to get in.

  • AG2

    To get sympathy points you need to have a name brand coach, a name brand player, or a name brand “basketball” conference. Sadly, Michigan has none of these.

    Also, I do believe 2006, the one season Bob Huggins was at K-State, was the only time a major conference team didn’t make the tournament with 10 conference wins.

  • Dave

    i find it hard to believe that a team with 14 losses is going to get a tourney bid that doesnt make sense… team deserves to get a bid with 14 losses thats why im saying 3 wins which includes minnesota….if they lose to minnesota they need to win the btt or at least make it to the finals…… team under 20 wins deserves to go either i dont think

  • Bill

    Dave how can you just use these metrics (20 wins, 14 losses) without looking at all the factors? Look at who Michigan played in the nonconference- Duke twice, UCLA, UConn, Maryland. Also played in one of the toughest conferences in the country, are you telling me Michigan should be denied a bid at 19 wins but Penn State should be given a bid at 20 wins even though they didn’t play anyone good in the entire nonconference schedule? You can’t just look at wins and losses, you have to look at the whole body of work- M went 10-3 nonconference, and certainly could have gone 13-0 if they filled the schedule with cupcakes- that would put them at 21 wins right now, would they have a better case in that situation? I don’t think so.

  • JRose5

    Dave, why all the negative talk? Where do you come up with the 14 L’s? I do agree that we really need this game and the 1st round, after that I think we are jsut locking a bid up. I, for one, would just love to watch a tourney game and be able to root for the boys in blue! The last time that happened I couldn’t leagally drink a brewski, so it would be nice to watch Coach B and the crew and drink a cold one at the pub. Here’s to getting a W in the barn!

  • raiderfan

    I really like the 2008 Arizona comparison. The had a similar non-conference schedule competition wise. The difference is they didn’t win against the great teams like we did. They lost to eventual nat’l champ, Kansas, and nat’l runner up Memhpis. Those pretty much equals our tough non-conference schedule. They had two big conference wins, both over Washington State, like we have two so far, Purdue and Illinois. They finished 18-15 overall and 8-10 in conference. They also didn’t make a run in the Pac-10 tourney. Our resumes are very similar, and the comittee loves teams that challenge themselves in the non-conference season. There is one major difference and that is Arizona was expected to be good last year. They were ranked in the preseason, and remained ranked until about half way through there conference schedule. I hope we can hit a win streak so we can put all this bubble talk to rest. We control our on destiny and like I said before we appear to be peaking at the right time. Our fate rests on the shoulders of Peedi and Manny. Take us to the promise land boys.

  • Arizona did have a couple more road wins as well, that’s the biggest difference that I see… Win Saturday and I think we are in very good shape.

  • JimC

    “…Root for ejections leading to 1 game suspensions for Minnesota players.”

    Good one!
    And then it doesn’t really matter if MN wins or loses.
    I hope a big fight breaks out tonight at MN.

  • jgunnip

    Fahmie is the man. The one thing I disagree with is his W-W-L prognosis. That is an auto-in IMO.

    I do agree that a W-L is very bad, This means we’ve lost to Iowa or Indiana. But I think we’re still squarely on the bubble in this spot. Still have that 9-9 conf record.

  • jgunnip

    Here’s a breakdown.

    Remaining Big Ten games. (gametimes EST)
    Tonight: NW @ Purdue (6:30), Wisc @ Minny (8:30)
    Thur: Ill @ Purdue (9)
    Sat: Mich @ Minny (12), PSU @ Iowa (2)
    Sun: Purdue @ MSU (12), NW @ OSU (5), Ind @ Wisc (7)

    Also, here are all the possible BTT tiebreaker scenarios. Tiebreaker rules are 1) Winning % amongst tied teams, 2) Winning % against MSU (conf champ).

    Illinois > Purdue
    Illinois > Wisconsin
    Wisconsin > Ohio St
    Wisconsin > Penn St
    Ohio St > Penn St
    Penn St > Michigan
    Michigan > Minnesota

    Wisconsin > Ohio St > Penn St
    Ohio St > Penn St > Michigan
    Ohio St > Michigan > Minnesota
    Michigan > Penn St > Minnesota

    Ohio St > Penn St > Michigan > Minnesota

    First-Second round implications for us.
    6 seed: Indiana-Purdue (if MSU beats Purdue), Indiana-Illinois (if Purdue beats MSU)
    7 seed: Iowa-Purdue (if Purdue beats MSU OR PSU beats Illinois), Iowa-Illinois (if Illinois beats PSU and MSU beats Purdue)
    8 seed: Northwestern-MSU

    (The above assumes Purdue beats Northwestern at home tonight.)

    A win against Minnesota will get us a 7 seed UNLESS Penn St loses to Illinois and Iowa AND Minnesota beats Wisconsin AND OSU beats Northwestern. Then we would be a 6 seed.

    Loss to Minnesota = 8 seed.

    Think I got that all right.

  • Dave

    im figuring that michigan losses to minnesota which makes 13 and then losses in the btt at some point which makes 14…..yeah they played an extremely tough schedule but they will have 14 losses……..i dont care how good of a year they had……thats still pretty bad overall i dont care if they exceeded expectations 14 losses in my book is really bad apparently all you guys enjoy that many losses for some reason

  • jgunnip

    ok one more poast.

    When was the last time a team with a losing conference record made the tournament as an at-large? We’d have a case if we ended up 8-10 and made the BTT semis or finals. Beating MSU would give us the most top 25 win. Obv, we’d need a lot to roll in out favor but its not out of the question.

  • jgunnip: Arizona last year. There is an average of about 1 every year. Arizona also didn’t do squat in their conference tourney, beat a lower tier Pac 10 team and then lost to Oregon I believe.

  • Avery Queen

    I’m with James. A win vs. Minnesota is much more crucial than our performance in the BTT.

    If we lose and then say Minnesota, OSU and PSU all finish at 10-8 I think that drop off from 10-8 to 8-10 would be killer regardless of our run in the tourney.

    Now say PSU and OSU are still 10-8 so they are in and we tie with Minnesota at 9-9, there’s no way Minnesota gets in ahead of us. They could maybe make the tourney with a great BTT performance but with resume comparison and head-to-head you can’t take them without taking us.

    So with a win vs. Minn, I think 1 BTT win is a sure thing, and 0 might suffice.

  • Avery Queen

    btw nice work there jgunnip

  • IX

    Looking at Fahmie’s brackets the last few weeks, I agree with most of what his projections are. He has Michigan in his First Four Out, which seems pretty accurate. He’ll have Michigan as a lock in the tournament if they win Saturday AND their first BTT game. Some sites have us as a Next Four Out and Under Consideration. Those brackets will be bowing down to Fahmie come Selection Sunday.

    I think Wisconsin will find a way to beat Minnesota tonight, mainly due to the revenge factor. I’ll go with 72-65, Badgers win.