Life on the Bubble: March 7th, 2011

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan needed to beat Michigan State to keep its bubble hopes alive and managed to get it done. Now, with just six days until Selection Sunday, things start to get interesting. As things stand today, Michigan would very likely have a spot in the tournament. Unfortunately the next six days of basketball tend to be some of the most dramatic in the sport, outside of the NCAA Tournament itself. Mid-major schools will steal bids and major conference schools will make surprising conference tournament runs. The bubble will change significantly by Selection Sunday.

Michigan’s bye puts the Wolverines in a precarious situation. Several other bubble teams will play games against much lower ranked foes. Those games present the opportunity for a disastrous loss but easy wins also have a treading water effect that can be helpful – see Michigan’s win over Iowa two years ago. Michigan’s situation is different entirely. The Wolverines open the tournament in the quarterfinals against a fellow bubble team, Illinois. This is not only a great position to start a legitimate tournament run, it’s also a great spot to bolster the bubble resume with a win over a fellow bubble team. A loss gives the committee easy ammunition to say “they had their chance to prove something, and let it slip away”. Michigan might not need a win on Friday but it would certainly make things a lot easier.

We have a full rundown of the latest bracketology updates after the jump.

Bracketology Roundup:

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  • mistersuits

    Michigan shot 2-18 from 3-pt range @Illinois and still only lost by two. I like our chances to shoot a more modest 3-pt percentage and playing on a neutral court. A win here gets us a solid 10/11 seed.

  • Trevor

    Crashing the Dance results are a little bit sobering: they seem to be the only prominent site using any sort of rigorous methodology, and their track record seems very good. Then again, maybe getting 92% of at-large bids right over 5 years isn’t that great, given the number of bubble teams compared to the number of near-lock teams.

    /obligatory “we should probably just beat Illinois” comment

  • Peter

    I think the second half of what you said is right trevor… I think 92% is easy.. its the last 8% that is what is not a lock to pick.

    Plus no way I think that they are credible saying msu is in…. same record and beat them twice anyone who has any sense in them (read even an msu alumn) knows we are in ahead of them..

    also all… enjoy!

    • Peter

      oh they took down the link… it used to link directly to… shame

  • emmekel

    crashing the dance is stoopid.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      It’s worth noting that Crashing the Dance is a system. It’s not someone hand selecting the teams. I’ve talked with Andy and he agrees that it might be overrating Penn State a bit. It will be interesting to see how it corrects going forward.

  • KAB

    Crashing the dance also has PSU as the last team out. PSU is a long way away from getting a bid.

  • ScottGoBlue

    I’m so puzzled about why people love the likes of Illinois, Michigan State, and even Minnesota so late into this season. I understand they had more promise at the beginning of the year. I know they beat a few better teams early in the season than we did. But in the second half of the season, they’ve been mediocre (or in Minnesota’s case, just bad). I know Minnesota isn’t being discussed for the tourney anymore, but everyone who’s an expert still has Illinois ahead of us (okay, they won the one time we played) and Michigan State. This is definitely a lingering perception of talent thing. We’ve been red hot the last dozen games of the season. The competition: not so much. So why are they in and we’re still in doubt? I know the answer, I’m just going bonkers over it.

    Trevor and Peter, let’s just beat Illinois, yes?

    • Chris

      The answer is simple = RPI. Most of these analysts don’t have the time to watch each game. They made their judgemnets primarily based on RPI (which has many flaws). We have played too many weak RPI teams in our OOC schedule that it is hurting us right now. We need to do a better job of scheduling in the future. Illinois, MSU, and Minn (until recently) had better RPI’s.

      • mEEEchigan

        JB did a fine job of putting the schedule together this year… The most underrated figure that people tend to over looking in making these brackets is SOS.. Our SOS is 18 in the nation.. I know the selection committee looks as much into this as they do RPI…

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          It’s funny because SOS is just a huge chunk of RPI.

      • Bleedin’ Blue

        I think our weaker nonconf schedule was scheduled with the young roster in mind. I am not sure we would be on the bubble had we played a schedule similar to years past. Just a thought. I would anticipate a tougher nonconf schedule in the future. Is it Friday yet?!
        Great work Dylan and crew!
        GO BLUE!

        • steve

          well next year we are in a loaded maui invitational field so that should help our strength of schedule (and hopefully give us some marquee OOC wins)

          • ScottGoBlue

            Can it help us this year? Pretty pleeeeease!!! ;-)

      • ScottGoBlue

        Great point, Chris. I don’t know the math behind the RPI, but it seems like greater value (at least slightly) should be given to accomplishments later in the season. I know they used to look at last 10 games, but maybe less so now. Anyway, it’s not that hard to look at the schedules and see that MSU has been mediocre since Mid-January and we’ve been winning in bunches. That’s what really gets me. Some of the teams that are “in” ahead of us are in because of November. But they got worse and we got better between then and now. The RPI doesn’t tell you that.

        • Jeff

          Also, they beat Washington and Wisconsin while Lucious was still on the team.

    • Kenny

      Is Illinois on the bubble, I hope that they are not and are less interested in playing on Friday.

  • Trevor and Peter

    Right on man!

  • Giddings

    Hmmm, yesterday Crashing the Dance had us solidly in as a #10 seed. What changed?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Perhaps Penn State’s win. Also, wherever they are pulling RPI from moved MSU to 51 which ruins our top 50 record. Seems like something that could skew the results.

      • Kenny

        The biggest stupidity of this is, there is no big difference between RPI 51 and RPI 50 and RPI 49. It is just a random cut-off.

        • UM Hoops Fan

          I doubt the committee uses that cutoff, at least not to make final decisions. We have four wins over teams with RPIs between 54 and 61 (PSUx2, Clemson, Oakland) (including 2 on the road) plus a road win over 74 Minny. This assumes MSU is above 50 in RPI (they’re 48 in That’s a lot different than beating a bunch of teams in the 80’s and 90’s. When you read writers talk about the committee “digging deep,” that’s what they’re doing. They look at all kinds of stuff, average RPI of wins and losses, etc. Top 50, Top 100 stuff is just shorthand – useful to a point, but not the be-all-end-all.

          • Kenny

            I hope that you are right and people should stop worrying about teams moving up and down a couple of spots on RPI.

  • KAB

    Dylan, Do you think that we will get in if we lose a close one to ILL???Most people say yes and that we have already done enough. I have checked it out and have a hard time seeing how we could be left out.You know way more than me though..

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Depends on what happens this week. I think play-in game is most likely followed by left out.

      • MikeM

        I have a hard time believing a major-conference team will end up in a play-in game, even with all this “Last four in” talk from bracketologists, based on the teams historically matched up in the play-in, plus the fact that UM and its ilk are either in with a 10-11-12-seed or just left out.

        • blue86

          um you do know the tourney expanded this year to include more play in games right? the last four bubble teams in, which are all but certainly going to include a couple, if not only, major conference teams, have to play in the play in games.

          • MikeM

            Sorry, didn’t realize one of 11-seeds and one of the 12-seeds are now play-ins. I thought they were all for 16-seeds.

  • Adam

    I still don’t get where MSU has “better wins” than Michigan does. Outside of Wisconsin their best wins are Washington (bubble team), Minnesota (out of tourney), and Illinois (bubble team). So while those wins maybe are better than Michigan’s? I don’t know. Michigan’s best wins are MSU twice, PSU twice, Minnesota, Clemson and Harvard.

    On the surface I wouldn’t say MSU’s best wins are that much better than Michigan’s if they are at all. And with very close resumes I think the obvious and easy tiebreaker is that Michigan beat MSU twice.

    • jmblue

      Not to mention that their two best wins occurred when Korie Lucious was on the team. The committee should take that into account.

  • Mark

    The SI one i find really funny too. They’re saying that MSU is higher than UM because of their quality wins. MSU has 3 quality wins according to his list. Wisconsin (I’ll give you that one), Washington (RPI 45) and Minnesota????? We beat Minnesota too. Why is that a quality win for them but not for us?

    I think Clemson equals out Washington and Minnesota equals itself out which only leaves them with one quality win compared to UM. I think the fact that we beat them twice should mean more than 1 win against Wisconsin at home.

    • billiam

      Honest question, but did they beat minnie when Minn had their Guards?

  • KAB

    Yea, I think we want Old Dominion to beat VCU right?

    • Jeff

      Big time. VCU winning is the kind of thing that shrinks the bubble fast, although there are two or three of those virtually every year. CUSA is probably the most likely to still a bid. UAB will probably get in barring a 1st round loss, but I could easily see another team winning that conference tournament.

    • jmscher

      Yes, we want ODU, desperately, that is the first game that has emerged that would steal a bubble spot if it goes VCU. Caveat being ODU miight not get in, but i think they are in a bit of a better spot for an at large than we* and others are.

      *only if we lose to Illini

      • Jeff

        Lunardi has them 34th on the SCurve and they beat Clemson, Xavier and Richmond OOC. I don’t think they’re even on the bubble. I think if VCU wins, one bubble team pops.

  • Mason

    This has nothing to do with the bubble or anything, but I see that Jevohn Shepherd has signed with Deutsche Bank Skyliners in Germany’s top pro league. Good for him. I was a fan of his while he was here.

    • Kenny

      I like him too. He could’ve really helped last year’s team if his eligibility was not running out.

  • JimC

    It’s true:
    Zusätzlich verpflichten die Skyliners Zweitligaspieler Jevohn Shepherd….

  • JB…

    Does RPI consider preseason rankings??

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    A couple things…

    1. The “play-in” game is different this year. There will be two games pairing the final four at large teams and two games pairing the final four auto bid teams.

    2. The RPI is derived from a simple formula.

    RPI = .25 * Winning Percentage + .5* Opp. Winning Percentage + .25* Opp. Opp. Winning Percentage

    It’s also weighted up and down for home losses. A home win counts as 0.6 win, while a road win counts as 1.4 wins. Inversely, a home loss equals 1.4 losses, while a road loss counts as 0.6 loss.

    • Joel

      I believe it’s .25 * Winning % + .5 * Opp Winning % + .25 * Opp Opp Winning %

      Cause one of the biggest concerns of the RPI is that it ways too heavily on SOS.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        You are correct.

  • Jeff

    Here are some conferences that are most likely to have bid stealers:

    WAC–Utah St is currently listed as an 8 seed, so we need them to win.
    Horizon–Butler is currently listed as 41st on S curve, so we want them to win. Interestingly, because they aren’t the 1 seed in their tournament, Milwaukee is listed as the autobid right now, so if Butler wins, it opens up another at-large spot.
    CAA–Want Old Dominion to beat VCU tonight, because ODU is in anyways.
    CUSA–although UAB isn’t 100% in, they are the most likely, so we want them to win their conference tournament.
    A10-Want Xavier or Temple to win, with Richmond as third choice.
    Mountain West–want BYU, SanDiego St, or UNLV to win.
    PAC10–Want Arizona, UCLA or Wash to win.

    The good news is that WCC final is between St.Mary’s and Gonzaga, so no bid will be stolen there and even though Indiana State won the Missouri Valley tournament, it looks like Missouri State will most likely be left out. The bad news is this doesn’t count major conference bubble teams who win two or three tournament games to get in.

    (Sorry for the length)

    • jmscher

      I agree with most of these, the one exception being the A10. I think we very much want Richmond to lose. They are pretty much right on the bubble and a loss in the A10 tourney especially before the finals would go a nice way to bumping them behind us if we are one and done in the B10 tourney.

      • Jeff

        You’re probably right, they are one spot ahead of us on the SCurve, so a 1st round flameout would probably keep them out. Definitely want Temple or Xavier to win that one.

  • Tim Kim

    I have a feeling that we wont get in because of a lack of a marquee win this year. It seems that that keeps coming up in each of these discussions. If we beat illinois then I think we ge another quality win that should help in overcoming the lack of marquee win. Given the current morale, I am going to be bummed if we are NIT-bound.

    • Jeff

      Not to sound like a downer, but it seems like a lot of people are still on a high after the MSU game, acting like we’re 100% in. If we don’t beat Illinois, we’ll be on a very slippery slope. I just hope we beat Illinois and we don’t have to find out.

  • KAB

    Tim Kim, relax because we are in a good spot…

  • Eric

    Soooo instead of worring about all of the crazy things that might happen IF we lose. Lets just all agree that we should just BEAT Illinois. Then everything will workout and were in!!!

    Personally I think UM seems to step it up a notch when it comes to tourney time. I mean we were one crazy half court shot away from beating OSU last year in the B10 tourney.And that was a team that didnt have near as much on the line as we do this year!!

    As far as I am concerned the Illinois game is the play in game for us! We got this!! GO BLUE!!

  • MiamiWolv

    If we lose to Illinois, we’re going to end up as a #1 seed in the NIT. Its a coin flip between that and the play-in game, but I’ve learned from 1997 and 2006. I don’t expect us to get in.

    We are an 11 seed right now. I think its wishful thinking to expect that none of the teams below us will play their way into the field, and that a couple of bids won’t go to bid stealers.

    We’ve come too far to end up in the NIT now. Seeing us a #1 seed in the NIT would be devastating. We really need to win Sunday.

    • Azad

      If we win Sunday we will have won the Big Ten Tournament. We play Illinois on Friday…

      • um basketball fan

        Haha– so let’s just win Sunday too!!!!

  • MiamiWolv

    Here is Lunardi’s latest from chat — its a coin flip if we lose. Good news — we have destiny in our hands.

    What are Michigan’s chances at the tourney if they lose to Illinois on Friday?

    Joe Lunardi (4:25 PM)

    Tenuous, Sam. Michigan would fall back on the bubble and be at the mercy of who knows how many other teams.

  • Merlin

    you know if we get to the NCAA and lose the first game we are out. All this teeth gnashing-this is a great season and Saturday was a great victory. I am not going to let the we got to beat Illinois to have any chance ruin this thought-I love this team!

  • Alex

    Lunardi also said that he believes teams should have at least a .500 conference record including the Conference Tournament. This meshes with the above comment as we would be sub .500 if we lose to Illinois. I think the team has a great chance this Friday.

    • Jeff

      He was just saying that was a rule he would like to see implemented. However, it is not a rule currently followed.

  • KAB

    That is funny.Yesterday he felt we were safe???

    • BlimpyBlue

      Yesterday, he said we were safely in — if the season had ended as is. Many situations will have developed by next Sunday, so a loss to Illinois absolutely places us right back on the bubble.

  • ToBlav

    1. It seems recent records should count for something.
    2. The NIT isn’t the end of the world, as much as it is second choice.
    3. If the players reacted in games like us fans are in The Dance talk we’d be all over their cases.
    4. Abide, ya’ll

  • maxwell’s demon

    SOS really needs to be revised to not put equal weight on all tiers of opponents. Who cares if you beat a team ranked 180 or 220? I think more focus should be put on playing quality teams rather than distinguishing the really bad from the awful.

    Go look at PSU’s schedule and guess what their SOS is. Then look it up.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      It’s true. The key to good scheduling is playing a bunch of teams in the 100-200 range rather than the 200+ and *gasp* 300+ range. Of course, it’s almost impossible to tell where someone will fall before the season.

  • Joel

    I think M knocks off Illinois convincingly and I will even go as far as saying they beat OSU as well. Best case scenario after that would be meeting up with State in the finals and beating them again for 3 times in one year, hey maybe again in the big dance. HA

    • billiam

      Joel, repeat with me one word to all the OSU fans out there: karma
      (Psst: think last year’s BTT, if you didn’t get it)

  • chris

    Man does Old Dominion look good right now against VCU…great game and it’s on espn, check it

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      They are one of the most ridiculous offensive rebounding teams I’ve seen in a while. If they play a weak defensive rebounding team in the tourney I could see them picking up a win.

  • EchoWhiskey

    Man, I’ll be more than a bit bitter if this MSU team gets the “you’re supposed to be a good team” bid over us.