Life on the Bubble: February 21st, 2011

Dylan Burkhardt

It’s time to finally acknowledge that Michigan is “on the bubble”, even if the Wolverines are still on the outside looking in. I was trying to resist the temptation to start posting things like this but, at this point it’s relevant information.

The Resume:

  • Record: 17-11 (7-8 B10)
  • RPI: 58
  • SOS: 23
  • vs. RPI 1-25: 0-6
  • vs. RPI 1-50: 2-8
  • Road Record: 4-5
  • Quality (Top 50) Wins: Harvard (40), at Michigan State (43)
  • Bad (100+) Losses: at Indiana (180)

More notes after the jump.

Michigan’s resume has strengths, most notably a handful of solid road wins – at Michigan State, Clemson and Penn State – but it also has a number of flaws. Two wins against RPI top 50 foes, both in the 40s, is just not good enough when push comes to shove on Selection Sunday. Luckily, Michigan’s last three opponents – Wisconsin (18), Minnesota (39) and Michigan State (43) – all rank in the RPI top 50 and present ample opportunity for Michigan.

Two years ago, Michigan was one of the last teams selected in the field despite seven RPI top 50 wins including signature non-conference victories over UCLA and Duke. That team played its way into the tournament, knocking off Purdue at home before winning at Minnesota to close the regular season. A similar performance down the stretch appears to be necessary for Michigan to the have a shot at dancing.

It’s important to remember that you are never dealing with absolutes when it comes to the bubble. The first obvious factor is that a group of individuals, not any specific ranking or polling system, select the field. This is probably a positive, but it is important to remember that they can pick whatever team for whatever reason. The most important thing to remember is that games aren’t played in a vacuum. The bubble picture today is nothing like the bubble picture tomorrow. Great teams are upset, middling teams fall apart, and random mid-majors steal at larges with surprising conference tournament runs. The key for Michigan is to continue to improve its resume over the next three weeks, regardless of what anyone else does.

That said, there are a couple things that Michigan needs to do to remain in the conversation. A sub .500 conference record would all but eliminate Michigan, barring a miraculous Big Ten Tournament run. The question is whether a .500 conference record would be enough. Without a win over Wisconsin it might not be, as Michigan would have a season full of good wins without a headlining signature win. The Big Ten Tournament will unveil an entirely new set of scenarios but, for now, the number one priority is beating Wisconsin. Wednesday’s game, more than the rest, has the chance to instantly improve Michigan’s tournament resume.

Bracketology Wrap-up

Bracketology 101: First Four Out

Crashing the Dance: First Four Out

Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology: Not listed

Andy Glockner (SI):

The Wolverines have swept Penn State, but lack the kind of quality wins the Nittany Lions feature. They do have the schedule to get to 10-8, though, with Wisconsin and Michigan State at home around a trip to reeling Minnesota. If the Wolverines can sweep those three, they’ll also have struck further blows to the Spartans and Gophers. First things first: Beat the Badgers on Wednesday.

Andy Katz:

If you’re looking for a team that could find its way into contention as a possible at-large berth, then check out Michigan. The Wolverines have top-50 wins over Harvard (yes, the Crimson are No. 43), at Michigan State and won road games at Clemson, Penn State and Iowa (Michigan State couldn’t beat either of the final two on the road). The Wolverines have one bad loss, by 17 at Indiana. But they have a favorable schedule down the stretch after beating Iowa on the road Saturday. Michigan hosts Wisconsin, goes to struggling Minnesota and finishes at home with a chance to sweep Michigan State. At the very least, Michigan could go into the Big Ten tournament needing one more quality win to secure a possible bid if it wins its two remaining home games.

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  • Mark

    I’m a little annoyed that MSU is considered already in even though they are 7-7 in the Big 10 and really haven’t beating anybody either. I’m also annoyed that I keep seeing Minnesota in the field yet they are 6-8 in the Big 10.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Minnesota has the two big OOC wins against UNC and West Virginia in their back pocket but it will be interesting to see where they finish.

      I’m more concerned over a team like Virginia Tech being considered in the field when they haven’t really beaten anyone.

      • Jeff

        Boston College too. That’s why beating Wisconsin is so important. That would be the marquee win we need to leapfrog a lot of teams.

        • Beast1530

          You need more than just one marquee win. You need at least two IMO.

        • Mark

          I still just think if you can’t go .500 in your conference you don’t deserve to go.

      • Were those wins before Al Nolen was kaput?

        • Jalen 5 Rose

          Yes, so it was a completely different team. If they stayed healthy I think Minnesota could have made a serious run this year. Without Nolen they can lose to anybody. Tough break for them. Easily a bigger setback than Purdue losing Hummel.

  • Jeff

    I just have this strange feeling we’re being set up for heartbreak. This team has done better than almost anyone expected so that the NCAAs have started creeping into our minds. I personally think we’re still a pretty big longshot, but that won’t make me feel any better if we suffer a close loss to Wiscson, or MSU or in the B10 tournament that keeps us out of the tournament.

    • BeileinsBricks

      Agreed. I don’t even want to acknowledge we’re on the bubble for that precise reason. It’s almost eerie how this team is paralleling JB’s last West Virginia team. That team was also ultra-young, had very low expectations, and significantly outperformed. Of course, in the end that team ended up being one of the last four out of the NCAA’s (but went on to win the NIT).

    • Mith

      That’s the ugly side of being a sports fan, isn’t it. I felt like my heart was ripped out aftere that Illinois game. But stuff like that will be all worth it when this team makes the tournament- if not this year, then hopefully next.

    • Mattski

      Absolutely true. But this is a pretty likable team, that has played brilliantly in stretches and has a lot of promising, very young players. They have overachieved this year, and are making the stretch-run enjoyable and tantalizing to watch.

      Even if they don’t win two of the next three, they are a threat to beat every team in the conference, esp. on the road. The possibility that they win the conference tourney cannot be ruled out.

  • chris

    don’t mean to cause an unwarranted fright among our folks, but have any of you guys read this nba draft report claiming to know of talk that morris is “leaning towards entering the 2011 draft?” UGhhhh

    • Azad

      I was hoping this would come up so that Dylan could dismiss this as BS…I don’t really see any remotely credible source with any quotes from Darius or any appearance of inside knowledge superior to the local press on this topic so I am just hoping this is complete nonsense and nothing to worry about.

      • Jeff

        Agree, it screams BS. For one thing he lists him as 60th. A sophomore who leaves early with almost no chance of going in the first round (and maybe not at all) is making a big mistake. I don’t get the impression that Morris is dumb either. There are literally dozens of mock drafts out there, and there are well over a hundred college players listed as a 2nd rounder on at least one of them. It doesn’t mean much at all.

        • chris

          yeh, it’s not the fact that hes been projected at #60 that i’m concerned …its the loaded first sentence about word being out that Darius was “leaning towards” leaving in 2011.

          • Max in Chicago

            Yeah, plus the lockout which seems more and more likely to happen would prevent any kind of real desire to leave. This, unfortunately, also means that Jared Sullinger may be back for another round. I’m looking forward to possibly seeing him and Tim battle a few more times. Go Blue!

    • Adam

      From Chad Ford’s Big Board (He has Morris ranked #42):

      Jan 12 Update: Morris ranks fourth in the NCAA in assists and first in the Big Ten. He wasn’t a blue-chip high school prospect, but his play at Michigan as a sophomore has turned heads, with some calling him the most improved player in college basketball this season. Largely known as a combo guard in high school, Morris is finding more comfort running the point, and his size at the position (he’s 6-foot-4) gives him a distinct advantage.

      He still can be a bit turnover prone and sometimes tries to make the spectacular pass instead of the easy one, but it’s clear to see what NBA scouts like in him. He pushes the ball, can attack the basket and is a solid shooter. He’s not a world-class athlete, but he’s quick enough to get to the basket. He’s probably a year away from making some serious draft noise, but more and more scouts think he could be a first-round pick down the road.

      • Azad

        I love Darius but “solid shooter”? Would anyone on this board describe him as that?

        • Beast1530

          No. His jumper is too inconsistent to be considered as solid. Not a good 3 point shooter but he doesn’t take a lot of 3 point shots so that’s knowing his weakness.

        • Adam

          haha no I wouldn’t say that at all… in fact I think that is the one glaring hole in his game otherwise he’d be a potential first rounder already.. that’s where I think he needs to come back for at least one more season.. if he improves the jumper he can play himself into the first round

  • Alex

    This could be completely unfounded but somebody posted on Mgoblog that Darius is thinking NBA draft this year. She posted a link to something called “the Big Board”. Have you heard anything Dylan?

    If it’s best for Darius I’ll support him but it seems another year could make him a First Rounder. This assumes he is completely dedicated to another year at Michigan. I loved Manny but he seemed checked out at times last year and thought a lot about the NBA during the season. Mccamey seems to have done the same thing this year.

    Whatever happens Darius needs to finish the year strong and then make this important decision. There’s just been too many examples of student athletes not doing this in recent years that ultimately hurt their prospects.

  • Section13Row15

    I personally think that Michigan will get whatever it deserves this year. If you take care of business and beat Wisconsin at home, I think we’ll be right in the mix. If we don’t, then you can’t really blame anyone for leaving Michigan out while not having an impressive signature win. Beating Minnesota on the road regardless of what happens in our other games, pretty much ends Minnesota’s argument for being in (i.e., home game that they should win). I’ve had trouble stomaching the bracketology reports that Minne and MSU are in too, but I think what they’re saying is that as long as both teams beat the teams they’re supposed to on the remaining schedule (including us), they’re in the tourney. If they don’t , they’ll be out pretty quickly.

  • BeileinsBricks

    One of the mods at Mgoblog just posted that he contacted the article’s author, and the author confirmed that he hasn’t been in touch with Darius. I think it’s just editorializing on the part of the article’s author, plus I guess he generated hits from Michigan fans, so he was very successful in that regard.

    • chris

      thanks for the follow up…I’d be curious to know on what the statement, “Morris is said to be leaning towards entering the draft” is founded upon, if it is at all. Wonder who this Aran Smith dude has heard this from, if anyone, or if its like you say and hes just inciting for the sake of increasing his readership.

  • champswest

    If we don’t beat Wisconsin, none of this tournament talk matters.

    • Azad

      I would slightly amend this just to say that if we don’t win 2 out of the last 3 none of this tournament talk matters. If we win 2 out of 3 with the loss being to Wisconsin, we still have our shot to play our way into the tournament during the Big 10 Tournament…

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    In regards to all the Darius Morris talk.. It’s one rumor posted as speculation on one draft website. I know the NBA is a goal for Darius but I don’t see him jumping if he’s only projected as a mid-to-late second round pick, or even undrafted in many mocks. If he’s projected as a first rounder, that might change things, but for now all of that talk is more speculative and premature than the bubble talk at hand.

  • Azad

    My big question now is, who is going to step up these last 3 games to help Morris, Morgan, and Hardaway? Those 3 guys can’t do this alone…

    • JimC

      Right! It’s the “Big 3” as Dylan or Joe called them. We need some production from the other two on the floor, whoever it is.

  • AG2

    I for one would have a hard time believing a kid with very little publicity (almost all our games have been on Big Ten Network) would jump at the slim chance to get taken in the 2nd round the year before a potential lockout. If he keeps improving by the end of his Jr year we’ll talk.

    I’m not much for heartbreak. I’m actually just excited that we’ve clinched not finishing last in the Big Ten considering how this team was thought of last summer. Not only that but we’re probably looking good for the NIT at least. But I really REALLY REALLY want to beat Wisconsin. They’re now the only team Beilein has never beaten and while they tend to match up against us well they are also a terrible road team.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      I think playing on the Big Ten Network is one of the last things that will affect Darius Morris’ draft status. Most NBA scouts have cable.

    • Andrew S

      Yeah, trust me, if scouts want to see tape of Darius they will get it. I have scouted D-2 football games and found really crappy tape taken by random people in the crowd. That won’t have any impact on him getting drafted.

      • Beast1530

        Scouts travel all over the country and they go to practice facility or offices to watch gametapes of prospects. They will scout big and small schools on draft eligible prospects, which in NBA’s case which is a lot. They will know small school prospects simply because they went to the area that they’re assigned to.

  • From Andy Katz’s blog:

    “The bottom of the at-large field will come down to the best candidates among the mediocre teams. No one will have any room to complain if they’re on the outside of the “First Four.” Most teams in the discussion for one of the last spots have more pimples on their résumé than a 15-year old with bad acne.”

    This team has had a great season. Overachieved for sure. Lots to be excited about for the future. But I think you have to be realistic. We haven’t been good enough to close. We would’ve had to close out one of the OSU games or Kansas or Syracuse for me to think, at this point, that we deserve to partake in the greatest sporting event in the universe. But if we were to win-out that would be a different story. I think we gotta win them all.

    • All that to say, I am very happy with the direction we are going. But we are still mediocre. Gotta punch out at least a couple great teams to move up a level. Playing great teams close doesn’t count.

      • Mattski

        Don’t think “mediocre” is an apt descriptor for a team that has overachieved and proved really fun to watch. Yes, we are in the middle of the B10, and that is sobering to recognize sometimes. But–hey–it’s OUR TEAM.

        • I agree that they are fun to watch and have overachieved! I just don’t see how an outsider could look at us much more than mediocre if they looked at our wins and losses. I just think we’d have to win out in order to feel legitimately scorned if we were passed over.

  • KAB

    Andy Katz is not going to decide our faith…Dylan,do you feel like we have to win out or will 2 be enough in your mind?

  • KAB

    That pic sends chills down my spine..

  • Section13Row15

    I think it depends on which 2 we win and if we lose in the first round of the Big Ten Tourney.

  • KAB

    Yea,we can’t lose in the first round of the BTT. Chance’s are that would be a bad loss

  • Anthony

    Guys morris is a good player, but im sorry no way in he11 is he an nba prospect right now hes just not good enough. The nba is a pick and roll game, and morris lacks explosion and a jump shot to really play in the nba right now. You need one or the other and morris to me has neither right now… He has the size and vision but when you lack 3 major things its going to be hard to get into the nba for darius next year.

    • MikeM

      Yes, Morris is an NBA talent, but lacking the complete game necessary to get NBA minutes right now. I think he needs at least something of a mid-to-long-range jumper before he’s a serious prospect, and both his on- and off-ball defense need considerable work. His lack of quickness would be exploited by NBA point guards.

  • grandchamp

    MSU is 1-7 in true road games and haven’t won on the road in almost 2 months.

  • MikeB

    UM needs some combination of 4 mores wins to get in. Either sweep the last 3 regular season games and then win one in the tourney or go 2-1 down the stretch and then win 2 tourney games.

    • JimC

      That sounds about right.

  • El Capitan

    One thing that is enticing to me is the mess that is the Big Ten standings. OSU, Wisco, and Purdue have all punched their tickets, but I think that next cluster of Illinois, MSU, Minny, PSU and us is going to yield three teams going dancing and two staying home for the NIT. Any of those 5 teams that win out will be in good shape (this is all excluding the BTT, which adds another dimension).

    PSU is my pick to fade, as they have two road games and a home game against OSU. If they can beat OSU then that will be huge, but I think they’ll lose at Northwestern and it will knock them out for good.

    Minny has MSU, us, and PSU, so they REALLY control their own destiny. But I see State taking them down, which would really hurt them. And we usually play well at Minnesota for some strange reason…

    Illinois has four games left, with the road games being at OSU and Purdue, but the home games being Iowa and Indiana. I think they definitely lose both of those road games, as they are struggling mightily right now (I’m still angry about our loss). Yet if they win one of those, they are probably in (assuming they take care of business at home).

    MSU has us, Minny, Iowa, and Purdue. I think they will beat Iowa and Minny, and we better bring it on March 5. I strongly believe that game will determine which one of us goes dancing and which one stays home.

    So let’s just end the speculation, win the last three games, get that conference 4 seed, and play 5th-seeded Illinois on the Friday of the BTT. Sound good?

    • Alex

      Mis sentimientos exactamente.

  • mat

    Re: Football vs Basketball selection

    “a random group of individuals, not computers like the BCS, select the field.”

    The BCS poll isn’t selected by computers; it’s 2/3 Human Polls. The computer polls play a factor in football, but (arguably) they’re less of a factor than basketball’s most influential poll (including the human ones) – RPI.

    Computer polls play a big role in each sport, but I get the sense that there is more reliance on computers in college basketball. Which makes sense, since in football there is so much emphasis placed on losses and it’s easier to examine 12 game resumes than 30+ games. Plus, in football you’re only really concerned with the top 10-15 teams, while in college you’re trying to parse differences in resume between the 50th-70th ranked teams.

    And while I’m here quibbling with your wording — the selection committee isn’t ‘random’.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Yeah… I guess that wasn’t worded the best. The point remains a group of people make the decisions in basketball. Not any sort of poll/ranking/etc. Sure, numbers like the RPI are in the room, but those aren’t the end all be all.

  • Anthony

    The commitee looks at each team individually if michigan were to win the next 3 (I dont think they will) then they woul be in with a 10-8 big ten record and two wins over msu would likely put them into 4th or 5th in the conference. I think 2-1 with a win over wisconsin and a win in the tournament should get them in.

  • J.D.

    Consider how tough it is to play point in the NBA, it seems like highlighting D-Mo’s assist numbers suggests this would be his position if he entered the draft. Or he would somehow be most successful there. I’m a big Morris fan but as a Wolverine. Defenders just lay off him when he has the ball on the perimeter because he has no range for threes, he has no left hand (it used to be hard to watch) and especially early in the season he was trying to do to much with the basketball. Does anyone else get the feeling that when Morris drives and makes a basket the other teams fans are at home cursing their T.V. sets. It seems like he just muscles his way in and sometime throws up some garbage and it goes in. And thank heavens refs let that hand check sweep thing he does to get around defenders go (that used to be a foul).

    Anyway that got a little long but it’s my first post so… 2-1 (.500 in conference) and one Big Ten Tournament win = lock for NCAA tourney. That’s what I said with six games left, so I’m sticking with it. Go Blue!!

  • Does the committee consider “closing strong” and momentum to end the season. Sure we lost 6 straight, but since then we’ve rebounded and won 6 of our last 8, including three big road wins.

    That’s gotta count for something, right?

    • Beast1530

      Apparently, the committee has said that they try not to look at last 10 games because they will consider at looking the season when evaluating teams.

      • JimC

        Seem to recall that they DID look at the last 10 games in the past….so that changed(?)

        • BeileinsBricks

          I believe they changed it due to unbalanced schedules now that conferences are much larger, though don’t quote me on that.

  • Giddings

    I just compared the resumes of five “major conference” bubble teams listed by Lunardi – Boston College, Baylor, Nebraska, Clemson, and Maryland – against ours. Obviously I’m biased but I just don’t see what makes these teams’ resumes better than Michigan’s.

    – Our RPI is better than 4 of the 5 (BC is #45).
    – We are tied for the most Top 50 wins (2) with Clemson and Nebraska (Baylor and BC have 1, Maryland has ZERO).
    – Maryland is the only team with zero losses vs. #100+. We have 1 (tied with BC), while Clemson and Nebraska have 2 and Baylor has 3.
    – Our 4 road wins are tied for the most with Maryland. Clemson has 3, BC and Baylor 2, and Nebraska has only 1 road win all year.
    – Only area we fall “short” in is conference record… we are 7-8 while Nebraska, Maryland, Baylor, and BC are 6-6. Clemson is 7-6.

    I’m hoping the committee doesn’t pay any attention to so-called pundits like Lunardi and make sure they give a hard look at every team out there…

    • That is pretty interesting.

    • Jeff

      Good analysis, but here’s what I consider our biggest weakness: Our best win is over MSU who is currently listed as an 11-seed. BC and Baylor beat Texas A&M who is listed as a 6-seed. Clemson beat FSU who is listed as a 9-seed and Nebraska beat Texas, listed 2nd overall. I don’t even consider Maryland a bubble team. Obviously, what I listed is only one factor, but it’s one of the most important. Quite simply, we are lacking a marquee win of any kind. We get that, and our profile becomes totally different.

  • Alex

    I really think 2-1 finish could get it done especially if one of those wins is Wisconsin. We can’t lose a Thursday game in the BTT. Obviously wins would help us in the BTT. FYI Digger Phelps just put Illinois under the eye test and they passed. He thinks six Big Ten teams make the Dance.

    I don’t swear by him but he makes some good points. On the bright side, OSU is losing badly to Kansas. They are a bubble team.

  • Adam

    CBS Sports:

    Michigan (17-11, 7-8, 6th BIG10 ) | RPI/Rank: 0.5723/57 | SOS/Rank: 0.5807/24

    Opponent’s RPI Rank
    W-L Record vs. Ranked Teams No. 1-25 No. 26-50 No. 51-75 No. 76-100 No. 101-200 No. 201+
    0-6 2-2 4-1 1-1 4-1 5-0
    Last Game Next Game
    Won vs. Iowa 75-72 vs. Wisconsin, February 23, 2011, 6:30 PM

    Of all the bubbly Big Ten teams, and there are a lot of them, Michigan is the only one trending up. The Wolverines’ biggest problem is a lack of quality wins, but they have a chance to correct that here at the end of the season with home games against Wisconsin and Michigan State sandwiched around a road trip to Minnesota.