Bracket Watch: February 8th, 2012

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Michigan at Michigan State 17We’re now a week into February, and March is slowly but surely creeping into view. We’re at the point in the season where every regular season game means that much more, especially for teams fighting to get off the bubble or battling for a conference championship. With a win at home against Indiana Wednesday and a loss in East Lansing to Michigan State Sunday, the Wolverines still are in good position for a solid seed on Selection Sunday. Most experts still have Michigan slated safely as a four or five seed in their projected fields of 68.

With a very manageable end to the conference schedule – Michigan’s final four road games are against Nebraska, Northwestern, Illinois and Penn State, all teams at the middle or bottom of the conference standings – the Wolverines could greatly improve their conference record and garner some solid road wins. Conversely, if Michigan doesn’t take care of business against teams that it should, the slide down the S-curve could be just as quick.

After the jump find an in-depth look at Michigan’s resume, a roundup of what notable bracketologists says about the Wolverines thus far, a look at the Big Ten’s NCAA tournament worthy teams and more. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

Nitty Gritty

  • Record: 16-7 (7-4 Big Ten) [Division 1 Only]
  • RPI: 15
  • SOS: 11
  • Home Record: 12-0
  • Away Record: 2-6
  • Neutral Record: 2-1
  • vs. RPI Top 50: 7-5
  • vs. RPI Top 100: 8-6

Bracketology Rundown:

Every week leading up to Selection Sunday, we’ll have a full run-down of predictions from some of the nation’s most widely-read bracketologists. Here’s a look into what each expert is saying with three weeks remaining until March.

Around the Big Ten

We’ll also keep a close eye on the rest of the Big Ten and let you know who’s in, who should be in, who could be on the bubble and which games this week have the biggest tournament implications this week. If the season ended today, the Big Ten would likely put eight teams into the Big Dance.

Locks

  • Ohio State (20-3 overall, 8-2 Big Ten): The Buckeyes won at Wisconsin on Saturday for the first time since 2000 and remain alone atop the conference standings. Following their fifth straight win, most bracketologists continue to have them as a 1 seed.
  • Michigan State (18-5, 7-3): The Spartans rank sixth in RPI and also boast the second-toughest schedule in the nation. With a loss at Illinois last Tuesday and a win at home against Michigan on Sunday, they remain as 2 or 3 seed on most brackets.

Should Be In

  • Michigan (17-7, 7-4): Despite a loss Sunday in East Lansing, the Wolverines still stand in good position with an RPI of 15 and seven wins over teams in the RPI top 50, a total which is tied for the best in the country with Baylor.
  • Indiana (18-6, 6-6): Indiana remains as a 4 or a 5 seed in most experts’ brackets, mainly thanks to massive home wins over Ohio State and Kentucky. The Hoosiers also notched their second road win of the conference season with a victory at Purdue on Saturday.
  • Wisconsin (18-6, 7-4): Wisconsin had won six in a row before falling to the Buckeyes on Saturday and still remains a 4 or a 5 seed in most brackets.

Bubble In

  • Purdue (15-8, 5-5): After a 78-61 loss at home to Indiana on Saturday, the Boilermakers are sputtering and have now lost four of six. They’ll stay on the bubble in for now, but last night’s near close loss at Ohio State was a golden opportunity.
  • Illinois (16-7. 5-5): The Fighting Ilini continue to be the most difficult team in the conference to figure out. After winning three in a row at the start of January, they’ve now lost four of five, although a win against Michigan State last Tuesday is helping to keep them on the right side of the bubble. The Illini still have trips to Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin and have to host both the Wolverines and Boilermakers.
  • Minnesota (17-7, 5-6): The Golden Gophers have now won five of seven, most recently including a much-needed road win at Nebraska on Sunday.

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Bubble Out

  • Northwestern (14-8, 4-6): A solid week with a win at home over Nebraska and on the road at Illinois has the Wildcats’ tournament hopes alive. With a game at home against Iowa and at Purdue this week, Northwestern could move to 6-6 in league play and into the tournament picture by next week.

Big Ten Games with NCAA Tournament Implications

  • Northwestern at Purdue, 6:00 Sunday: A win could possibly propel the Wildcats onto the right side of the bubble and a loss for the Boilermakers could push them out of the projected field. This is a huge one for both sides.
  • Illinois at Indiana, 8:00 Thursday: If the Fighting Illini are going to safely hop off the bubble, they’re going to need a solid road win or two down the stretch. With three of their last four road games at Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, this could be one of their best shots. The Hoosiers have lost just one game at home this season but their below average defense could help Illinois’ struggling offense.

Bracket Debate

And to top things off, we’ll take a look at one national game or storyline from the week before that could have a dramatic impact on the NCAA Tournament picture.

With the many ways to try to predict who will get into the Tournament come March, things can get pretty confusing at times. RPI, strength of schedule, body of work, top 50 wins… Buzz words and metrics fly around and it’s tough not to feel like you’re in math class. Basketball Prospectus’ Dan Hanner discovered a simple metric designed to simplify the process.

In his article “How to End Bubble Speculation in Eight Words”, Drew Cannon gives this simple eight-word equation: “Add a team’s KenPom rank to their RPI.” Cannon has used the equation since 2007 and has had remarkable results. Last year, the equation predicted 66 of the 68 teams correctly. According to Cannon’s current rankings, Northwestern would be the last team in with an “EBS” (Easiest Bubble Solver) of 115. So if you find yourself frustrated with all the number crunching, give Cannon’s equation a shot. It’s hard to argue with the results, which are surely as good as any at this point in time.

  • UM Hoops Fan

    You know what’s nice?  Not being too worried about the bubble.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be sweating a little until we get to 9 or 10 conf wins, but on the whole it’s kinda comforting to be thinking about seeding at this time of year.  I could get used to this.

    • Quaint06

      Absolutely. Should be this way for the rest of the foreseeable future.

  • kruser

    Dylan:

    Maybe you can explain it to me because I just don’t understand the love affair with MSU. Our Metrics are almost the same as MSU’s yet their in the Top 10 in the country and we’re barely a Top 25 team.

    They lost to Duke, we lost to Duke. They beat Wisconsin, we beat Wisconsin. They beat Indiana, we beat IU. We beat them, they beat us. They have 7 Big Ten wins, we have 7 big ten wins.

    Why they get so much more love than we do is beyond me. It has to be just the name IMO.

    • UM Hoops Fan

      First, ten spots in the rankings isn’t that much, and MSU is at #11 and #12 in the polls and we’re at #22 and #25.  Second, MSU’s resume is a bit better than ours.  MSU has won at Gonzaga and at Wiscy, while our win was home vs Wiscy.  MSU has also beaten FSU.  Also, some of it is just recency effect — our neutral court win at Memphis was a while ago now.  If we win two this week and MSU drops one on the road to OSU, we’ll probably be within 3-5 spots of them.  I wouldn’t really worry about this.

      • kruser

        It’s not a worry….I just don’t think they are worthy of being 13 spots higher. Also, 13 spots can be the difference between a 3 seed and a 6 seed come tourney time. That’s my really concern.