Bracket Watch: March 6th, 2012

IMG_2061With Selection Sunday less than a week away, this is every team’s last chance to make a final push for a tournament bid. With a win at Illinois and a win at Penn State to close the season this past week, Michigan ended the season with a 13-5 conference record and a share of the Big Ten title. Michigan’s NCAA tournament resume is strong enough that most bracketologists still have the Wolverines listed as a 3-seed in their latest brackets.

With five Big Ten teams on the top four or five NCAA tournament seed lines, the Big Ten tournament could loom large in the bracketing process. A win over Minnesota or Northwestern wouldn’t have a large effect but a loss could send the Michigan back a seed line. Could Michigan fight its way up to a 2-seed? It would probably take a run to Sunday at bare minimum and most likely require Michigan’s first Big Ten tournament crown since 1998.

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: 22-8 (13-5 Big Ten) [Division 1 Only]
  • RPI: 11
  • SOS: 18
  • Home Record: 14-1
  • Away Record: 6-6
  • Neutral Record: 2-1
  • vs. RPI Top 50: 9-6
  • vs. RPI Top 100: 12-7

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 implication. If the season ended today, the Big Ten would likely put seven teams into the Big Dance.

Locks

  • Michigan State (24-7 overall, 13-5 Big Ten): The Spartans sputtered in their last two games of the season, losing on the road at Indiana and at home against Ohio State, and that might cost Tom Izzo’s team a No. 1 seed. The Spartans are projected as a No. 2 seed on most brackets but will have to prove they can be successful without Branden Dawson, who tore his ACL in the loss to Ohio State.
  • Michigan (23-8, 13-5): Two solid road wins this past week, at Illinois and at Penn State, secured the Wolverines a share of their first Big Ten title since 1986. A three seed seemed likely but Michigan should put forth a respectable performance in Indianapolis to help their seeding and location.
  • Ohio State (25-6 overall, 13-5): After losing 3-of-5 games, the Buckeyes ended the season with two huge road wins at Northwestern and at Michigan State to earn a share of the Big Ten title. Most bracketologists have the Buckeyes projected as a two seed.
  • Wisconsin (23-8, 12-6): The Badgers ended the season on a three-game win streak, highlighted by a very impressive 63-60 victory at Ohio State. Most bracketologists have them slated as a 4 seed.
  • Indiana (24-7, 11-7: After teetering between greatness and mediocrity all season, the Hoosiers rattled off four wins in a row to end the season and should be a four seed.

Should be in

  • Purdue (20-11, 10-8): With a huge win at Michigan on Feb. 29th, the Boilermakers are all but a lock at this point. A win at Indiana last week certainly would have sealed the deal, but Purdue came up short, 85-74. A win in the Big Ten tournament should seal up a bid for the Boilermakers.

Bubble in

  • Northwestern (18-12, 8-10): The Wildcats have teetered on and off the bubble for the past month or so, and they remain square on it heading into Selection Sunday. Two wins (over Minnesota and Michigan) would give the Wildcats a great chance but what happens if Northwestern falls to Michigan for a third time?

Out

  • Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois will all have to win the conference tournament in order to make the Big Dance. Although the Hawkeyes have some very quality wins, they simply have too many bad losses to be considered for an at-large bid. Minnesota and Illinois crumbled in the latter part of the season and have fallen out of the bracket debate.

Big Ten Games with NCAA Tournament Implications

  • Minnesota vs. Northwestern, 5:30 Thursday : With Northwestern square on the bubble, a loss against Minnesota may very well crush their tournament chances. The Wildcats need this one. For the Golden Gophers, this will have to be their first step in a journey to the conference championship if they want to make it to the dance.
  • Purdue vs. Nebraska, 8:30 Thursday: The Boilermakers should be securely in the tournament, but a loss against Big Ten bottom-feeder Nebraska could have Purdue sweating come Selection Sunday.

Bracket Debate

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

Cinderella stories in the NCAA tournament are nothing new. There’s always a lower seeded team from a small conference that captures our hearts with an improbable run. Despite reaching the Final Four in consecutive seasons, Butler won’t make the NCAA tournament this year. However, several low and mid-majors have already sealed NCAA tournament berths this spring and are ready to fill the void. Fresh off of last year’s Final Four run, VCU locked down a bid with a CAA Championship win over Drexel last night and they will be joined by Belmont, UNC Ashville, Saint Mary’s, Creighton, Murray State, Davidson and Loyola (MD) as the automatic qualifiers in the field thus far.

Now that Michigan is in line to earn a No. 3 seed, it’s time to worry about what teams around the 14th seedline could prove particularly dangerous. Akron, Belmont, Valparaiso (who plays Detroit in the Horizon League final tonight), Davidson, Nevada, Montana and Bucknell appear to be some of the most likely 14 seeds in current bracket projections. Belmont in particular stands out as a dangerous 14-seed as the Bruins are regarded as a top-30 team by Ken Pomeroy and lost by one point at Cameron Indoor and gave Memphis a tough fight.

Peaking ahead to third round match-ups, Joe Lunardi’s potential pairing of Michigan with Vanderbilt in Nashville would be a nightmare while Andy Glockner’s potential third round match-up with the winner of Harvard-San Diego State, or Tommy Amaker vs. Steve Fisher, could generate enough discussion to crash this website.

With so little time until Selection Sunday, what names would you love to see or shudder at the thought seeing across from Michigan on the bracket?

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