Monday Musings

Dylan Burkhardt

96 Team March Madness

Say it ain’t so. According to Sports by Brooks, a 96 team NCAA tournament is a “done deal“. March Madness is easily my favorite sporting event but if this is true it will be a huge blow. I can’t see any way that this works. I don’t know why you have to mess with perfection. Let’s hope this rumor  heads toward internet purgatory rather than reality but with all the talk, it’s tough to deny the fact that a 96 team tournament is coming at some point.

Efficiency Margins

Team W L Poss. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Eff. Margin
Michigan State 9 0 65 106.5 92.6 13.9
Wisconsin 6 3 59 102.6 93.1 9.5
Purdue 6 3 65 106.3 97.8 8.5
Ohio State 6 3 64 105.4 97.4 8
Michigan 4 5 61 100.7 95.8 4.9
Illinois 6 3 68 103 99.5 3.5
Minnesota 4 5 67 102.5 105.8 -3.3
Northwestern 3 6 64 104.7 113.5 -8.8
Indiana 3 5 67 92.3 103 -10.7
Iowa 2 7 63 91.2 103.4 -12.2
Penn State 0 9 62 95.3 109.5 -14.2

If you are looking for a sign that Michigan is playing better basketball in conference play then you need look no further than this week’s efficiency margin table. With 9 conference games played, Michigan stands 5th in efficiency margin even though they are only 4-5. Michigan ranks above Illinois and Minnesota but they are a ways behind the top 4 of Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Ohio State.

The most impressive point off this table has to be Michigan’s defense. Michigan has the #3 defense on a point per possession basis. There were times in November and December when I didn’t think Michigan was capable of getting a stop but the defensive improvement has been remarkable. It’s painful to think about what the season could have been if Michigan was playing defense at this level from day 1.

One guy who definitely deserves a shoutout for improved defensive performance is Laval Lucas-Perry. He hasn’t done much of anything in the scoring column but I’m convinced that he has stepped up his game dramatically in the last couple weeks. Here are his Roland ratings (I’ll post a full update later) from the last 5 games:

  • Iowa: +8
  • MSU: +15
  • @Purdue: +10
  • @Wisc: +10
  • m

  • UConn: +13

In three of these games (Uconn, Wisc, MSU) he was top on the team in plus/minus and in most of the games he outperformed Morris and Douglass. Now, he just needs to start hitting some wide open shots.

Bring on the POTs

Michigan has defended the three point shot better than any other team in the Big Ten, holding opponents to only 27.5% from behind the arc.  Michigan might not be able to make three point shots but at least they are doing a good job of defending them.

A lot of credit has to go to Michigan’s guards: Stu Douglass, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Darius Morris. They have done a much better job closing out on shooters. Zack Novak has also developed himself into one of the better off the ball defenders on the team. He fights through screens and does a great job of defending the three point shot despite spending plenty of his time defending the low post as well.


Michigan attempted to go out and schedule plenty of tough opponents this year including trips to Kansas and Orlando for the Old Spice Classic. At first glance, that plan appears to have backfired. Michigan’s RPI calculated strength of schedule ranks 65th in the country. Not bad but nothing compared to last year’s schedule (10th) and certainly nothing to write home about.

A deeper dive into Ken Pomeroy’s strength of schedule rankings reveals that Michigan’s schedule might be a little tougher than one would expect. Pomeroy rank’s Michigan’s schedule the 9th toughest in the country.

Why the discrepancy? The RPI strength of schedule is 2/3 opponents’ winning percentage and 1/3 opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage. This is based purely on how many games a team’s opponents win, nothing else. Pomeroy’s ranking is based on a team’s adjusted offensive and efficiency numbers — how good a team is statistically.

I’ve mentioned Pomeroy’s “luck” statistic last week and how it painfully measured how many times Michigan has come up short down the stretch (Michigan is down to 333rd in luck). Judging by the large discrepancy between the two strength of schedules it appears that Michigan’s opponents might be just as unlucky. So it’s not surprising to find Marquette, Penn State, Connecticut, Utah among thirty most unlucky teams.

Essentially, Michigan has been stuck playing far too many good teams that have underperformed. Michigan is in a situation where they’ve been stuck playing these solid teams where there is little to gain RPI wise and much to lose. That’s not to say that Michigan shouldn’t be kicking themselves, the Wolverines are 1-6 in games decided by 6 points or less.

The Unbalanced Schedule

The Big Ten schedule is incredibly unbalanced this year with many teams playing their two games within a matter of two weeks. Because of this funky scheduling, it’s tough to take too much from the conference standings at this point. There are plenty of teams who have a schedule that is setting them up for either success or failure down the stretch.

  • MSU (9-0) – Final 9: @Wisc, @Ill, PU, @PSU, @IU, OSU, @Purdue, PSU, Mich
  • Purdue (6-3) – Final 9: @IU, @MSU, Iowa, @OSU, Ill, @Minn, MSU, IU, @PSU
  • OSU (6-3) – Final 9:  PSU, Iowa, @IU, @Ill, PU, @MSU, @PSU, Mich, Ill
  • Wisc. (6-3) – Final 9: MSU, @Mich, Ill, IU, @Minn, NW, @IU, Iowa, @Ill
  • Ill. (6-3) – Final 9: @Iowa, MSU, @Wisc, OSU, @Purdue, @Mich, Minn, @OSU, Wisc
  • NW(3-6) – Final 9: Mich, IU, @Iowa, Minn, PSU, @Wisc, Iowa, @PSU, @IU
  • Minn. (4-5) – Final 9: @PSU, Mich, @NW, Wisc, IU, PU, @ILL, @Mich, Iowa
  • Mich. (4-5) – Final 9: @NW, Wisc, @Minn, @Iowa, PSU, Ill, @OSU, Minn, @MSU

The obvious winner is Northwestern, who plays 6 games against the bottom three. The Wildcats have to be kicking themselves that they couldn’t steal one or two more games in early conference play. Illinois looks to be setup for failure. The Illini play 6 of their last 9 games versus to the top 4 and only one game against the bottom three.

In terms of the title race, Purdue looks like they need to sweep Michigan State to get back involved. Michigan and Minnesota are deadlocked right now but face each other twice down the stretch which could be pivotal games in terms of final conference standings.

Game Times

Michigan’s home game versus Minnesota will be on March 2nd, at 7:00 PM EST on Big Ten Network.

Recruiting Notes

Jon Horford (2010, Center) posted a triple double earlier last week with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 13 blocked shots in a win over Waverly.  Trey Zeigler (2010 G/F) has led Mount Pleasant to 7 straight wins and has been putting up monster numbers along the way. As previously mentioned, Trey was in Ann Arbor on Saturday to see Michigan take on Iowa. Tim Hardaway (2010 commit, G/F) had 27 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 assists in a 58-39 win over Homestead. Carlton Brundidge (2011 commit, G) had 26 points in a 64-63 loss to North Farmington.

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  • Andy

    Have to agree that Illinois is in rough shape. I was shocked to see that they are 6-3 in the conference, and looking at the schedule definitely shows why. Trips to Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan should bring them back to earth.

    I actually think Michigan’s schedule isn’t too bad. There are two games that I think they have pretty much no prayer in (@OSU, @MSU), five games they should win (Wisconsin, @Iowa, PSU, ILL, Minn) and two that will basically define the season if they can take care of business in the five should wins (@NW, @Minn). They need to get back some of the games they gave away (@IU, NW, @Wisc) to be a real factor. I was very pessimistic about tourney chances, but if they can not take anymore bad losses and get it together for two big games, you never know what could happen.

    * Couple notes. The chart is in a weird order. It apppears to be sorted by defensive efficiency, which is weird. Also, something seems wrong with MSU’s schedule. They show as playing Purdue three times, which isn’t right.

  • gpsimms

    looks like Dechellis is finally getting Dechellised.

  • My bad… Fixed the sorting on the chart. I forgot that I had changed it.

  • Mith

    Yeah I love March Madness like no other, but I can’t see the goodness in 96 teams. It seems like we miss out on 5-7 pretty good bubble teams, but the other 25 teams are likely to be pretty unremarkable. Adding more mediocre power conference teams would be horrible. I hope there will be more of a slant on mid-majors, I could get at least a little excited about that.

  • Alex

    One game and one week at a time. This could be a very good week for us. If we beat Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan and take care of business against the Leurless Badgers at home it could be a good week.

  • Alex

    Also the 96 team change would kind of defeat the purpose. As it stands we get the top approx. 20% of NCAA Men’s teams in the tournament. No need for any more.

  • Jeff

    I think almost every fan would agree that expansion is a bad idea, but there is nothing that can be done when the powers-that-be want to go for another money grab.

  • hambone

    Dylan, give the track record this season praising players, you just jinxed LLP

  • Deacon Blues

    Expanding the tournament makes sense.

    Currently, the tournament is out of step with pretty much every other collegiate team tournament — with the obvious exception of women’s b-ball — in terms of the percentage of D-I teams it allows in. Baseball allowed 22% (64 of 286) last year, softball roughly the same. Men’s soccer is at 24%, hockey 28%. Basketball is 18%.

    Why should making the basketball tournament be harder than the other sports?

    If anything, basketball should be on the hockey end of that spectrum (which it would be with 96 teams). There are a lot of teams out there for whom men’s b-ball is the sole revenue-generating sport. Increasing that revenue is sensible, what with schools like Northeastern cutting football teams and stuff.

  • JimC

    If they expand the field to 96 this year, and we make it in as one of those off the bubble teams, I can handle that! But i’m sure it’s what, 2012 or something that they’re talking about.

  • JimC

    And did you see this?
    They’re talking about NC, UConn and Louisville in the NIT. If those teams are in the NIT this year, that adds some credibility.

    Maybe the NCAA is trying to basically shut down the NIT and own everything post-season.

  • Didn’t the NCAA buy the NIT last year? Or something along those lines?

  • ToBlav

    So isn’t it about the same thing as combining the NCAA and NIT into one?
    This is business think, you know, make it effecient through combined administrative cost.

  • AG2

    Wasn’t that 96 team proposal linked to the NCAA opting out of its contract with CBS and moving the tournament to ESPN?

  • Tweeter

    I dont know where I stand on expansion. I love the tourney as it is now, and think that adding teams would mean adding a lot of mediocre teams in. But I also dont think it would make the tournament itself any worse in terms of viewing. It will still be the awesome spectacle it is regardless of how many teams are in.

    I think some people get upset because they look at from a fans point of view. Where in reality this should not be about the fans, it should be about the schools and players. Pro sports are about fans, college sports are about schools and students. So I think we need to try and disconnect ourselves from our fanship when looking at whether or not expansion would be a good thing.

    My concern with expansion to 96 is though, that I believe it would mean that the small schools get screwed again. I bet they would give byes to the top 32 and then have the rest play first round games. Which would mean that many of the teams that win small conferences would have to play another game before getting a shot at the big boys. Thats what they did with the play-in game and its really a shame.

    If I was going to expand it, I would only do it to 80 teams for now. Then give byes to all the teams that win their conference plus the next best 14 (i think there are 34 conferences?). Have the other 32 teams play first round games that play them into the 12, 11, 10, and 9 seeds. Basically it would be like a first round bubble battle. Play those 16 first round games on that Tuesday when the play-in game is now.

    That soudns pretty awesome to me. That week would be crazy filled with good, meaningful basketball and it would not punish the smaller conference teams. Now that I think about this, I like this idea a lot. I know some will say that those tuesday games will just be average teams playing meh basketball, but I would still love watching it knowing what is on the line and the fact that it just adds another day like Thursday and Friday of the tournament. Frankly, those days are the best days of the tournament anyway, so why not have three of em?

    AG2: I think your right about ESPN. I thought I heard that they were trying to get the rights to the tournament. Which I guess would be a good thing for viewers if it means that more games are on at the same time because they have multiple channels.

  • AG2

    Apparently, now CBS has teamed up with TBS to make a counter offer, and so has Fox. In addition, not only could the NCAA tournament deal expire at the end of the season, the NIT tv deal expires too. So its most likely we’d be looking at folding the NIT into the tournament. Personally I’d have no problem with that at all, especially now that the NIT has made more of an effort to include the best mid and low majors who didn’t win their conference tournaments.

  • bird

    64’s fine. 95? Why? No less arbitrary cut off.

    Now, if they wanna talk about a fielf of 347, or however many teams are in D-1 these days, I’d listen.

  • So with 96 teams, would we just see the 9th or 10th best SEC or Big 10 team show up, or would we actually get to see some of the small-conference regular-season champs that lose their tournaments, or a few more 24/25 win mid-majors that get left on the margins?

  • AG2

    Just remember that in the next few years the Great West Conference (which is basically a new conference for all the teams currently in transition to D1) will be eligible for another automatic bid, so the tournament would have to expand anyway, either with another play in game or making all 4 16 seeds play in games, or this.

  • My first impulse is to regret expansion, although Deacon Blues makes several pts. I had never considered.

    I’ve always loved the play-in, though. Wonder if those extra 32 could play their way in?

    Chitown Blue also raises a good question; if it just becomes more gravy for the big conferences, that bites.

    The nail-biting and drama that accompanies selection of the bubble teams will be dead in the water. Selection Sunday will be a big old yawn. Good luck putting the drama back in that one.

  • Drew

    Just watched the Mich-MSU Journey episode for the first time. Ouch. Why do I put myself through such things?

  • AG2

    You think that’s bad? ESPN won’t stop showing Kalin Lucas in its promos for the MSU Wisconsin game tomorrow night.

  • alf

    We lament that UM probably won’t make a 64 team field, and then we curse the expansion of that field to 96, which would allow the wolverines a bid and a slim shot at post-season glory. There’s a contradiction there, particularly since the (unfortunate) going line in UM-land is that we aren’t a sufficiently good program to expect annual tourney bids. Ann Arbor is a masochistic place, I guess.

    Plus, as a fairweather UD-Mercy fan, I’d like to see the Titans get some at-large bids now and then despite Butler owning them year in, year out.

  • Drew

    Haha every time I see him running down the court after that shot screaming “motherf******” and pounding his chest I want to punch a wall. I’m dying to see them lose tomorrow but unfortunately the LOST season premier takes precedent over that game. Just praying our road victory over Northwestern will be concluded by the 9 pm start for LOST tomorrow.

  • ohmigods

    The NCAA needs to expand Football tourny
    from 2 teams to at least 6
    (giving top 2 teams a 1st rd bye)

  • KainKitizen

    If the NCAA wants to try and add more to the tournement, instead of putting 96 teams in the tournement, they should go small and do a play-in game for each region before they go huge. That seems to be more reasonable and have them all play on Tuesday for more TV Time Business. They could also add more spice to the NIT if they wanted too. Go to a 64 team NIT and Start the Sweet 16 off in NBA Arena’s and keep the final 4 in NYC.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Drew man, the answer to your problems is DVR. Lost with ads is painful anyways…

  • steve

    Does anyone think Stu Douglass might get his shooting % back on track if he didn’t wear an XXXL t-shirt under his jersey?

  • ToBlav

    Responding to various items above. It is not hypocritical to bemoan our not getting in and oppose the expandsion, because we don’t want making the tournement diluted, when we do. I never understood the t-shirt under the uniform, it gets hot out there and shoulders should be radiators.
    Does anyone else think maybe the expanded tourney might save coaching jobs?

  • alf

    I think the loose t-shirt under the jersey technique is often a way of attempting to hide the fact that you have stick-arms.

  • Drew

    Trust me, I like to utilize DVR as much as the next guy, but unfortunately I’m at school and I don’t have the luxury of that. I agree though, those commercials are a real pain.

    And I agree that the t shirt is to hide smaller arms. I really hate the look though and wish our team would do away with them altogether. Did anyone else notice Manny ditched his at halftime against State?

  • ZRL

    Stu didn’t wear a t-shirt at all last year or at the beginning of this year. He only started a wearing it when he was sucking it up from deep at the beginning of the year, presumably to get his shot back.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Drew- Haha yeah the Manny thing was bizarre.

  • Giddings

    There have been random games where Manny decides not to wear the t-shirt – Illinois and @ NW last year come to mind (he played well in both). I guess it’s just a gut feeling, who knows.