Bracket Watch: March 6th, 2012

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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?

  • serious

    I’m really hoping that we don’t have to face Vandy in Nashville. This is the absolute worse match-up that we could draw as a 3 seed in the “third” round game. 

  • Mark G

    vanderbilt would absolutely freak me out due to their experience and how well they have played as of late namely vs Kentucky. i saw in cbs that they st marys as the 6 seed which after watching last night would not be something i would be too worried about. san diego state has obviously been a team who has played well all season and is definitely physical while harvard is the more complex team to play against. amaker would be licking his chops for revenge but remember he bested beilein the last time he played so it would go both ways.

    • Sven187

       We’ve already avenged the loss to Harvard.

  • MaceoBaston

    With regards to Vandy in Nashville, I thought the top 5 seeds were protected from third round opponents having significant home court advantages?

    • Sven187

       Vandy is not the host school. Some OVC school is.

      • rlcBlue

        True, but still a crock. I guess we should be encouraging EMU to host a subregional in Ypsi.

        • Sven187

          Totally agree.

  • MGoTweeter

    Belmont does not scare me that much (caveat I only saw their early season game against Memphis).  They are certainly a solid team with tourney experience, but they are basically a nonathletic memphis.  They try to run and run and run, but they play virtually no defense.  Again, caveats apply.  I think Michigan could handle them with tempo.  

    UNC Asheville kind of scares me though.  Very experienced team, two solid guards who can distribute and score.  Plus they have some size and actually compete a little on the defensive end.  

    Valpo is the only other team from that bunch mentioned that I have seen play.  They have a very good big guy, but I dont think anything that Michigan should overly worry about.  

    Third round game, agree with everyone that the Vandy in Nashville matchup is scary.  Another team around that 6 line is Notre Dame.  I would not want to face them either.  I dont think they are that great of a team, but they are too similar to Michigan.  Much rather play a SDSU, UNLV or Murray St type team.

    • Rkw

      Notre dame doesnt scare me. at some point your goin to play a qualiyt team.thats what the tourney is about.

  • DingoBlue

    Don’t look now but the Western Illinois Leathernecks Michigan played early on are looking to punch their ticket tonight.

    • Sven187

       Go Leathernecks! Spent a lot of time partying in Macomb. :)

  • James

    This will shock no one that attended their game against UM, but Western Illinois ended the regular season as the slowest team in American, at least according to kenpom.

  • Alex

    I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t mind facing Vanderbilt in Nashville. It would be a tough game but I’d we could win that one then it would prepare us even more for the Sweet 16.

    This is the NCAA Tournament and I don’t think any team will be particularly easy.

    Everybody will give it their all.

  • Mattski

    How likely is a first-round loss in the BTT to drop our NCAA seeding? Would a second-round win over OSU push us to a number 2? I know it’s fun, but isn’t getting keyed up about Vandy in Nashville premature? 

    I do hope we can push into the third or fourth round; the last few years, my interest has fallen dramatically once UM went out. The first few days are so exciting, then I just can’t get excited for the remaining teams. Can only get so much mileage out of rooting against Duke! 

    • Mistersuits

      Michigan needs to make the BTT finals (if not win) and needs help from the other current 2 seeds to do poorly in their conference tournaments in order to even be considered.

      A loss in the opening round for Michigan paired with deep tourney runs by the current 4 seeds (Louisville, Indiana) could bump Michigan down to the 4-line, but I don’t see Michigan going lower than that.

      • Bleed Blue

        I disagree.. If we win the BTT with beating Ohio and MSU we would be a 2 seed lock regardless of what other teams do..

        • Mith

          I agree with you in that scenario. 

  • Brad

    Ok people, calm down. Joe Lunardi, further proving how terrible he is at his job, does not understand the rules. The rulebook clearly states that 1 through 5 seeds are not to be placed at a “homecourt disadvantage” on the first weekend. Therefore, Lunardi’s bracket is impossible and will not happen.

    • rlcBlue

      Somebody asked him about it in an online chat. His response was:

      “Happens periodically. Only protected against it in your first game as a 1-5 seed.”

      Digging deeper, the official-looking rules he links to say:

      “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.”

      Remember, thanks to the play-in games “second round” means “round of 64″.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KELQZF2NXOVTZ4DXY2YL4H4INQ Chris in NC

    I’m still blown away that we are talking 3rd seed or a chance at a 2 seed.  I didn’t expect that coming in.  A 6-6 record on the road in conference???  Wow.  

    Northwestern has no bad losses but no good wins either. Seton Hall was a good win, but now that they are struggling to make the tourney, not so much.  I think if the win the first game but lose to us in a close one, they’ll be barely in.  Beat us and they are in.  Lose to Minnesota and they are out.

    • gobluemd16

      Beat MSU as well

    • Jengoblue

      Actually, the road record is 5-4 in conference; 6-6 total (Virginia, Oakland, Arkansas)

  • Bleed Blue

    Just curious where you got the 18 SoS from? I usually look at warrennolan website and our SoS is 11 there.

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      I said the same thing. Don’t have the link handy but if you look up the official NCAA Nitty Gritty PDF (as of Monday I believe) it has us with a No. 18 SOS.

  • Sebastian

    I want no part of UNLV in the round of 32 (I’m still going to call it the second round forever)

  • Buford McBuford

    I honestly think, given current likely seeds, that UM might have a better chance of reaching the Sweet 16 as a 4 than a 3 seed.  Many of the potential 6 seeds, not just Vandy in Nashville but Wichita State, New Mexico, and Murray State, would seriously tough draws in the second round.  A lot of those teams have run a bit under the radar (except Murray State), but they are excellent.  Most of the current projected 5’s don’t scare me as much.  Of course, being a 4 would make it unlikely that the Wolverines get past the Sweet 16 if the 1 made it there, while I could see Michigan giving either Missouri or Duke (the likely 2’s they could draw) a really tough time.

    • Fvsdevin

      I could see Wichita State making a final four run this year.  And Murray State is for real, I’ve watched like 7 of their games this season.  This whole “protected seed” crap is starting to irritate me.

      I ralize that a 3 seed would give us a much better chance of a late tourny run, but man…..  I would feel better about our 1st game if we were a 10 seed versus a 3 seed x.x

      • Fvsdevin

        As in, I’d rather play a 7 seed than a 14….

  • Cp4three2

    I don’t want anything to do with Belmot. I’ve seen them play, they’re solid. I’m stunned that they’re a 14 seed, hopefully we get some upsets in the conference tournaments and you see them get bumped to a 13 or so.

  • jemblue

    What would our SOS be if we could drop Towson, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama A&M from consideration?  Those three teams are a lead weight around our SOS and it’s still in the top 20 despite that.