Bracket Watch: February 7th, 2013

Michigan 76, Ohio State 74 (OT)-1
Dustin Johnston

As the college hoops season enters February and March creeps closer, a number of teams have yet to decide their postseason fate. This college hoops season has been full of surprises and nearly impossible to predict — just ask No. 5 Kansas, who lost on Wednesday to TCU. Among all the confusion, Michigan remains relatively steady. The Wolverines have lost two close games to highly-ranked teams on the road, but they have held serve at home so far and still appear to be in excellent position to land a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That being said, there is still plenty of room for error on Michigan’s schedule. The team travels to distinctly inhospitable  Madison to play Wisconsin on Saturday, and from there will travel to East Lansing to play the Spartans just three days later. Sitting at 1-1 so far in this grueling 4-game stretch is nothing to sneeze at, and it seems a reasonable expectation for Michigan, given the team’s struggles on the road this season, is to split the next two. From that point, four of Michigan’s final six games are at home, and the road games aren’t particularly daunting — Penn State and Purdue. The home games won’t be picnics — among the Wolverines’ opponents are Michigan State, Indiana and Illinois — but Michigan has been stellar at the Crisler Center so far this season. The Wolverines recently knocked off 8th-ranked Ohio State at home and are in excellent position, despite a loaded Big Ten, to secure a very high seed.

After the jump you can explore an in-depth look at Michigan’s resume, a collection of projections from notable bracketologists, as well as a look at how other Big Ten teams have fared during this stretch of the season and where they sit in the NCAA Tournament picture.

Nitty Gritty

  • Record: 20-2
  • RPI: 4
  • SOS: 13
  • Home: 13-0
  • Away: 4-2
  • Neutral: 3-0
  • vs. RPI Top 50: 6-2
  • vs. RPI Top 100: 13-2

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. The Big Ten is widely considered the nation’s best conference, and so far this conference season teams of all tiers have been solidly beating up on each other.

Locks:

  • Michigan (20-2 overall, 8-2 Big Ten, 4 RPI): Michigan is steadily gaining a stronger and stronger hold on a 1 seed, an especially difficult task in this year’s Big Ten. Despite losses to Ohio State and Indiana on the road, the Wolverines look to be in the driver’s seat — but there is a lot riding on their next two games in Madison and East Lansing.
  • Indiana (20-2 overall, 8-1 Big Ten, 12 RPI): The Hoosiers seem to be in good position to secure a 1 seed, and in contention for the Indianapolis regional with Michigan. However, Indiana plays its most difficult games at the end of the season; its last nine games include five on the road against Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota and Michigan.
  • Ohio State (17-5 overall, 7-3 Big Ten, 17 RPI): The Buckeyes’ tough loss at Michigan shouldn’t hurt them, all things considered. They are holding steady in the 3-5 range when it comes to seeding. Ohio State’s next game is against Indiana, whom it still has to play twice.
  • Michigan State (18-4 overall, 8-2 Big Ten, 13 RPI): Somehow, Michigan State keeps cranking out victories. Despite injuries to Gary Harris and Travis Trice, the Spartans have won seven of their last eight, with the one loss coming on the road against Indiana. All but Andy Glockner have penciled in Michigan State as a 3 seed at this point — if the Spartans and Wolverines can both hold serve in their upcoming match-ups, we’ll be looking at a top-10 showdown in East Lansing on Tuesday.

Should be in:

  • Minnesota (17-6 overall, 5-5 Big Ten, 11 RPI): Minnesota has dropped five of its last seven conference games and is having a hard time finding a groove. The good news is most of their tougher games to finish the conference slate are at home — they will meet Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin in the friendly confines of The Barn. Despite the Gophers’ recent struggles, they are holding steady in the 4-5 seed range.

Bubble in:

  • Wisconsin (16-7 overall, 7-3 Big Ten, 40 RPI): After a four-game win streak to begin Big Ten play, including a win at vaunted Assembly Hall against Indiana, Wisconsin has come back to earth. The Badgers have gone 3-3 since that game and it seems clear that they do not belong in the upper echelon of Big Ten teams this season. Bracketologists project them in the 6-8 seed range. With Michigan coming to town on Saturday, Wisconsin has an excellent opportunity to enhance its dancing chances.

Bubble out:

  • Illinois (14-8 overall, 2-7 Big Ten, 46 RPI): Illinois, by all accounts, is holding on by a thread. Joe Lunardi has the Illini as one of the first four out of the NCAA Tournament and most other brackets hold them in the 8-11 seed range. John Groce’s club needs to get some wins in conference play; Illinois has just one win in its last seven contests.
  • Iowa (14-9 overall, 3-7 Big Ten, 93 RPI): Fran McCaferry’s team may be a year away. Iowa has played plenty of Big Ten teams extremely tough, including Wisconsin, who escaped with an overtime victory at home against the Hawkeyes on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how many close games you’ve lost on Selection Sunday. The Hawkeyes have already played three overtime periods and are just 1-5 in Big Ten games decided by four points or less.

Records are Division I only, RPIs updated on evening of 2/16/13..

  • MLaw

    Funny that Illinois fired Bruce Weber for this same slide last year. Must be something in the water. Bruce Weber certainly isn’t shedding any tears at K-State.

    Odds that Iowa makes the tournament at 9-9 in conference (20-11 overall)? Does one of those wins have to be against Minnesota or Indiana?

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

      Bruce Weber just loves coaching other people’s teams.

      I think Iowa could squeak in at 9-9, but they’ll need a good win.

      • Needs

        Would Minnesota count as a good win for Iowa, because I think that’s their last real chance on their remaining schedule? They go to IU (hard to see them winning that), other than that, it’s Minny, Illinois, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern. Hard to see any of those other than Minny as a good win.

        • mikey_mac

          Definitely … Minnesota is still somewhere in the 3-5 lines in projections. Iowa came so close to getting that signature road win in their past two games.

  • UM 05′

    I’m very interested in the OSU / IU game. Curious to see how IU attacks the OSU defense vs. how UM tried it.

    Also curious to see if OSU’s role players stepping up vs. UM is a result of UM’s poor D or a trend for the future.

    Gotta love the Kansas loss and hopefully Duke can get another L and give UM breathing room for a #1 seed.

  • UM Hoops Fan

    I hope Iowa doesn’t make it this year or next year and they get rid of Fran McCaffrey. He is so angry out there, all red and yelling and spitting right in his players’ faces. I feel bad for the Iowa players — I wish Marble had 2 years left and would transfer. Maybe he should do it anyway. It really wouldn’t shock me if Fran decked a player.

  • mikey_mac

    Wisconsin as “Bubble In” feels off to me. As of this moment, I think they have to be considered a “Should Be In.” Their horrible home loss to UVA is completely offset by that road win at IU, and they have three other RPI-top-50 wins. Now, if they lose the rest of their top-50 matchups, that would probably change. But until that happens, this is a tourney résumé.

  • MGoTweeter

    Illinois back in the mix for sure now. Great OBU defense by Indiana.

    • Chazer

      Wow…..what a great year of hoops! Lets see if Big Blue can break out this week…..2 roadies would be especially nice!

      • serious

        I don’t really care to see Kentucky break out this week. Maybe that’s just me.

        • UMQuasi

          Well, an alternate “Big Blue” is the New York Giants, but I’m not sure why they would be relevant either on a basketball blog and after the NFL season has ended

  • fresh

    Michigan number 1 again, nothing wrong with that……..pretty embarrassing defense by indiana

    • Dr_ZC

      Wait till this weekend and after Wisconsin. Do not jinx the team.

    • Mith

      Gotta beat Wisconsin first!

  • serious

    Tyler Griffey! Thanks, buddy!

    • Dr_ZC

      Justice prevails. Remember the dunk by Oladipo against Michigan right at the last second? It should have counted, but I am glad Tyler’s layup counted, while Oladipo watched, being on the receiving end this time.

      No disrespect, he is a great player, but after the game against Michigan, they dubbed him the best defensive player in the country. Also the announcers declared Sheehee the top sixth man… I am not sure what more Mitch McGary needs to do, to get some respect.

      • Lordfoul

        Those polls that ESPN runs are a joke; of course the player listed that is playing in the current game will be voted the winner: their fans are the ones watching.

        Thanks to Illinois. Now Michigan controls their destiny for an outright title!

  • Dr_ZC

    Indiana went down 74-72 in the last second. I am glad I did not turn the TV off. What a game

  • Indiana_Matt

    I thought this was interesting from Mark Titus on Grantland today. Sometimes we can be “too close” to this team and get caught losing focus and being distracted by players’ off nights. Let’s enjoy what a special bunch we have (I need to remember my own advice next time I see an ill advised step back three).

    “As giddy as I am over Ohio State’s performance in Ann Arbor, a small
    part of me can’t help but acknowledge the obvious — the Buckeyes played
    their best game of the season and Michigan still won. Similarly,
    Michigan didn’t play very well at all at Indiana over the weekend, yet
    the Hoosiers beat the Wolverines by only eight. This is terrifying.
    Michigan is taking the best shots of some of the best teams in the
    country while not playing anywhere close to their best, and they’re
    still tough to beat. They just have too many weapons, especially now
    that Mitch McGary is coming around. Very few guys in America can contain
    Trey Burke one-on-one, but if you decide to help too much to stop him,
    Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, or Nik Stauskas will make you pay.”

    • gobluemd16

      I was thinking the same. We nitpick at Glenn being lethargic and being played too much, or Trey overdribbling at times, but we are 21-2 and this team is an absolute joy to watch. If we beat Wisco we will be #1 again, and have a great chance of getting a #1 seed in the tourney. Everyone should soak it all in because teams like this don’t come around often, and who knows when we will have this level of success again.

  • MLaw

    Well I stand corrected on Illinois. Groce has 4 top 25 wins. Minimum number of games to win and still make the tournament? I say 4 (7-11) gets it done and is entirely possible given this Illinois team. Awesome finish.

    • Kenny

      maybe 8-10, if they knock off minnesota on the road this weekend, they are in, otherwise they need to win the rest of the games except two road games in AA and Columbus. all these 5 games are aginst the bott of the conference
      and the toughest is against Iowa, which also need the game to be in the bubble.

    • ChathaM

      I’d say 7-11 gives them a realistic shot, given wins over Gonzaga, Butler, OSU, and IU.

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