Bracket Watch: February 15th, 2012

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Penn State at Michigan 21The NCAA tournament is less than a month away and suddenly the endless bracket projections and bubble scenarios are of the utmost importance to a number of teams. As for Michigan, the Wolverines got the 2-0 week they needed with wins at Nebraska and against Illinois and are in a great position secure a high seed on Selection Sunday.

Of the Wolverines’ five remaining games, only one comes against a ranked opponent, and that is Saturday’s primetime match-up at home against Ohio State. Three of Michigan’s final four games are on the road – at Northwestern, Illinois and Penn State – but those are also games that Michigan is capable of winning with a strong performance. Not to mention that knocking off the Buckeyes on Saturday would keep Michigan in the Big Ten Championship race. For now, most experts still have Michigan tabbed as a 4 or a 5 seed in their latest brackets. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

After the jump find an in-depth look at Michigan’s resume, a roundup of what notable bracketologists are saying about the Wolverines, a look at the Big Ten’s NCAA tournament worthy teams and more.

Nitty Gritty

  • Record: 18-7 (9-4 Big Ten) [Division 1 Only]
  • RPI: 14
  • SOS: 12
  • Home Record: 13-0
  • Away Record: 3-6
  • Neutral Record: 2-1
  • vs. RPI Top 50: 7-5
  • vs. RPI Top 100: 2-1

Bracketology Rundown:

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 (21-4 overall, 9-3 Big Ten): Ohio State had its 39-game home winning streak snapped in a 58-48 loss to Michigan State on Saturday, which prompted many experts to lower the Buckeyes from a 1 to a 2 seed. It’s possible that the Big Ten could end up without a No. 1 seed despite being regarded as the best conference in the nation.
  • Michigan State (20-5, 9-3): The Spartans have won five of their last six, including the huge win in Columbus. Michigan State appears to be a consensus No. 2 seed at this point but if they finish strong could they earn a No. 1?

Should be in

  • Michigan (18-7, 9-4): It would be difficult if not impossible for Michigan to play its way out of the tournament at this point. We’ll leave them here just to be safe.
  • Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4): Like Michigan, it’d take a small miracle to keep the Badgers out of the tournament. Left for dead after a 1-3 Big Ten start, Wisconsin has won seven of its last eight with its lone loss to Ohio State. Most experts have the Badgers tabbed as a 4 or 5 seed for now.
  • Indiana (19-6, 7-6): After losing five of seven games, the Hoosiers have righted the ship with convincing victories at Purdue and at home against Illinois this past week. Indiana climbed up the charts a little this week and is somewhere along the S-curve with Michigan and Wisconsin on the 4/5 seed lines.

Bubble In

  • Purdue (16-9, 6-6): The Boilermakers are flirting heavily with the bubble, but a win at home against Northwestern last week keeps them on the right side for now. Most experts have them tabbed as a 9 or 10 seed.
  • Illinois (16-9, 5-7): Illinois is fading fast, having now lost three in a row and six of their last seven. Beating Michigan State and Ohio State is a nice feather in the cap but the Illini need to right the ship down the stretch or they’ll be in some trouble.
  • Minnesota (17-9, 5-8): The Golden Gophers couldn’t put away Wisconsin in overtime last Thursday and could never recover from a 20-0 first half Ohio State run last night. Those would have been golden opportunities for a resume building home upset but suddenly Minnesota sits in 10th place in the Big Ten. Expects had the Gophers pegged as one of the last four teams in and that was before the loss to Ohio State.

Bubble Out

  • Northwestern (15-9, 5-7): Despite a loss at Purdue on Sunday, the Wildcats have quietly won three of their last four and remain in the bubble picture. Some experts even have them listed as a 12 seed, while others have them as one of the last four out. Games at Indiana and home against Minnesota this week will be huge for Northwestern’s chances.

Big Ten Games with NCAA Tournament Implications

  • Purdue at Illinois, 8:30 Wednesday: Both teams have struggled as of late and are in serious need of some solid wins down the stretch to boost their resumes. A road win would be as great for Purdue as a home loss would be crushing for Illinois.
  • Minnesota at Northwestern, 7:00 Saturday: Minnesota is one or two losses away from officially entering the Bubble Out column. Northwestern is one or two wins away from the right side of the bubble. This one is could hold serious weight in both team’s tourney chances.

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.

What about location? Early bracket projections have seen Michigan playing everywhere from Columbus to Nashville to Portland and everything in between. John Beilein’s team has been happy enough to hear their name on Selection Sunday when they were shipped off to Kansas City and Charlotte recently, but what does the potential of earning a higher seed mean for Michigan’s travel plans?

There are two things to worry about: pods and regions.

This year’s regional sites are: Atlanta, Boston, Phoenix and St. Louis. No more than two teams from any conference can be placed in an individual region of the bracket (unless the conference has nine bids) so you it’s a pretty safe bet that two Big Ten teams will be placed in each region. No region is particularly close to Ann Arbor but you can guess your one seeds. For example, Syracuse in the Boston, Kentucky in the Atlanta or Missouri in St. Louis.

Each regional is broken down into subgroups of four team pods (i.e. 1v16,8v9) which correspond with second/third rounds sites and don’t have to align with a regional. The important bracketing rule when selecting pods pertains to teams on the 1 through 5 seed lines: “To recognize the demonstrated quality of such teams, the committee shall not place teams seeded on the first five lines at a potential “home-crowd disadvantage” in the second round.” The Committee makes every effort to keep every team as close to their natural areas of interest as possible but those top five seed lines get priority.

How far are the first round sites from Ann Arbor? Here’s the relevant data from Crashing the Dance:

Albuquerque Columbus Greensboro Louisville Nashville Omaha Pittsburgh Portland
1346 m 157 m 462 m 307 m 459 m 650 m 201 m 1949 m

Other than Portland and Albuquerque, Michigan has several good options. However, Columbus would be a tremendous opportunity if the Wolverines play well down the stretch. Ohio State, the host institution, is ineligible to play in Columbus so that pod is up for grabs among the midwest’s elite teams.

Guessing where the Selection Committee will place teams is significantly harder than just predicting the field so these are little more than educated guesses, especially at this point. Still, Joe Lunardi’s bracket last Friday, with Michigan and Michigan State playing games in Columbus, caught my eye as one that would be particularly exciting. It’s a fun twist to have rival fans join in with underdogs like we saw with North Carolina and Duke fans in Charlotte last March.

  • Kevin

    Great post.  I’m curious as to what sort of “disadvantage” we would face being placed in Columbus.  It’s close enough for Mich fans to travel easily, but you would have to assume that every neutral fan (MSU/OSU) would be cheering against us.  Any chance that is taken into consideration? 

    • That’s a bit more analysis than they actually do in the disadvantage function. The larger issue is playing a team seeded below you that would have a home court advantage so to speak. For example Michigan is a 5 seed in Nashville playing against Tennessee, that wouldn’t fly.

  • Hoping for Pittsburgh but the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim, with Syracuse and Ohio State ahead of us. 

  • ZRL

    Considering Pittsburgh’s proximity to Columbus, I don’t think too many Buckeye fans will still at home and pay money to cheer against UM when they could easily make the drive to Pitt.

    • UM Hoops Fan

      Most of the million people in CBus hate Michigan.  I don’t think they’ll all go to Pittsburgh.  Tourney crowds are kind of weird, and we’d have the benefit of the fans from the other 7 teams, but there’d still be a large contingent of “neutral” fans that would just love to see UM get upset (compared to just about any other place in the country).

      • rlcBlue

        How many local fans with no rooting interest buy tickets to go to an NCAA sub-regional? I honestly don’t know the answer to this.

        But I would love Trey Burke to be able to play a couple of tournament games in front of his family and friends…

  • Alex

    It would be huge to get a high seed anywhere from 3-5. Maybe even 2 if a lot of really weird things happen.

    Regardless, it is nice to see how expectations are rising. I would definitely go to a game in Columbus or Pittsburgh if the tickets weren’t outrageously expensive.

  • Michiganman12

    Would really be happy if the game was in Greensboro, NC. Would 100% be at that game too.

  • Goblue336

    Hoping for Greensboro

  • AG2

    I’m projecting this:

    Greensboro: UNC and Duke (Surprised?)
    Louisville: Kentucky and Georgetown
    Omaha: Kansas and Missouri
    Pittsburgh: Ohio State and Syracuse
    Albuquerque: Baylor and UNLV
    Nashville: Michigan and San Diego State
    Columbus: Michigan State and Marquette
    Portland: Florida and Wisconsin

    Those west coast regions could be treacherous if they include teams like New Mexico, St. Mary’s, and Gonzaga.

  • MH_20

    Question about MSU’s record:

    Since MSU played Nebraska Omaha, who I believe is only playing a partial D1 schedule this season as they transition to D1, Sparty’s win against them doesn’t count in terms of RPI and NCAA tournament considerations, correct? That would make them 19-5.

  • rlcBlue

    Lunardi’s update today has UNLV dropping to a #4 after its loss to TCU Tuesday, and the open #3 seed going to Michigan.

    Wow.