Bracket Watch: February 19th, 2013

Michigan 79, Penn St. 71-26
Dustin Johnston

It has been a frustrating couple of weeks for Michigan basketball fans. The Wolverines have dropped three of their last five games. The two wins weren’t particularly inspiring while the losses were particularly impactful for their own reasons. Michigan finds itself at No. 7, outside of the top five for the first time this season, in both polls and also off of the top seed line in most major bracket projections for the first time this season.

While Michigan (and Michigan State) appear to be all but assured to open tournament play at The Palace of Auburn Hills, regional draws become very interesting. Indiana’s emergence as the top overall seed means that the Hoosiers are likely to play in Indianapolis. A No. 2 seed from the Big Ten won’t play in the same regional as the Hoosiers so that means the Wolverines could be looking at a further trip for a potential Sweet 16 game in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. or Cowboy Stadium.

Find the latest bracketology updates and a look at the Big Ten NCAA tournament picture after the jump.

Nitty Gritty

  • Record: 21-4 (Division 1 Only)
  • RPI: 8
  • SOS: 28
  • Home: 14-0
  • Away: 4-4
  • Neutral: 3-0
  • vs. RPI Top 50: 6-4
  • vs. RPI Top 100: 9-4

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:

  • Indiana (23-3 overall, 11-2 Big Ten, 12 RPI): The Hoosiers are the top overall seed in the field right now and should remain on the top line of the S-curve even with a loss at Michigan State on Tuesday.
  • Michigan State (21-4 overall, 11-2 Big Ten, 5 RPI): Michigan State’s thrashing of Michigan has allowed the Spartans to jump the Wolverines on the S-curve and establish themselves firmly in the thick of No. 1 seed discussions.
  • Michigan (21-4 overall, 9-4 Big Ten, 8 RPI): While Indiana and Michigan State have moved ahead in most brackets, Michigan still has a strong resume and will have opportunities to bolster it with marquee home games against both Indiana and Michigan State remaining on the schedule.

Should be in:

  • Wisconsin (18-8 overall, 9-4 Big Ten, 26 RPI): Wisconsin’s 9-4 non-conference slate feels like ages ago as the Badgers continue to grind through the Big Ten. Save for a trip to East Lansing, the heavy lifting portion of Wisconsin’s conference schedule is in the books and the Badgers are more worried about contending for a Big Ten crown than making the tournament.
  • Ohio State (18-7 overall, 8-5 Big Ten, 28 RPI): Ohio State is starting to look more and more like a bubble team. The Buckeyes are just 2-7 against RPI top-50 teams and only have four wins over RPI  top-100 teams. Home games against Minnesota and Michigan State this week provide opportunity but the Buckeyes are headed in the wrong direction.
  • Minnesota (18-8 overall, 6-7 Big Ten, 15 RPI): Minnesota still has a tournament worthy resume – right now. But with its next two games at Ohio State and home against Indiana, the Gophers could fall to 6-9 in league play and loses of 9 of 12. Will limping to a 9-9 finish be enough? A tough schedule and a few early season wins could be Tubby Smith’s saving grace.

Bubble in:

  • Illinois (18-8 overall, 6-7 Big Ten, 29 RPI): What a difference a couple of weeks made for John Groce’s Illini. Illinois has some undoubtedly bad losses – Northwestern at home, at Purdue – but after a four game winning streak looks like a team that will make the tournament after all. There are few bubble teams with a collection of quality wins to rival Illinois: Gonzaga (road), Indiana, Minnesota (road) and Butler (neutral) are all cream of the crop top 25 wins.

Bubble out:

  • Iowa (17-9 overall, 6-7 Big Ten, 80 RPI):  Iowa has a lot of winnable games left on its schedule but with an elevated RPI a 4-1 finish is probably the baseline to play its way into the NCAA tournament. However, beating Nebraska twice and winning home games against Purdue and Illinois should be an accomplishable task for a tournament worthy team.

Bracket Debate: Does Big Ten strength help or hurt?

The Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball. In our Big Ten Roundup earlier this week we pointed out that the league features eight teams in Ken Pomeroy’s top 30. It should come as no surprise that the 8-of-12 ratio compares favorably to other leagues. The Big East comes closest with 6-of-18 schools in the top 30 while the ACC (12 teams) and SEC (18 teams) both have just three KenPom top-30 teams. The question is how that will translate to the NCAA tournament picture.

There are no days off in the Big Ten and that fact could damage some resumes. There are several Big Ten teams – both at the top and on the bubble – that could be heavy on not just substance but also unexpected blemish.

The Big Ten last had two No. 1 seeds in 2001 and regardless of how things play out it would be tough to imagine that at least two of Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan deserve a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. Obviously conference strength alone isn’t a metric used for inclusion in the post season field but could a league like the ACC get two No. 1 seeds while the Big Ten gets only one? Miami’s undefeated (to date) conference campaign is impressive but that’s still a team that lost to Florida Gulf Coast and Indiana State. Duke is a good team, that’s been without Ryan Kelly for an extended period of time, but are the Blue Devils, even if they win out, worthy of a No. 1 seed over the Big Ten’s second best?

The other question is whether the Big Ten could grab three No. 1 seeds. That’s a feat which last occurred in 2009 with Louisville, Connecticut and Pittsburgh earning No. 1 seeds but it would be impressive from a league with only 12 schools. The chips would have to fall just right – perhaps a three way tie with two of the top three meeting on Sunday in Chicago – but that would be an emphatic first step toward the Big Ten’s first National Championship since 2000.

Records are Division I only, RPIs updated on 2/18/13.

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