Bracket Watch: March 5th, 2013

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Michigan 58, Michigan State 57-26
Dustin Johnston

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Michigan since our last bracketology update. The Wolverines traveled to Penn State on Wednesday for what was supposed to be a relatively easy road win, even against a Nittany Lion team that appeared to be improving. Instead, Michigan lost in stunning fashion, giving up a 15-point second half lead. With the loss, hopes of catching Indiana in the Big Ten title race took a significant hit. Michigan came roaring back to life in its big home win against Michigan State the following Sunday, but its chances at a share of the conference crown remain slim. Indiana would have to lose its remaining two games and Michigan would have to win out. The remainder of the conference season is all about seeding for the Big Ten tournament and as of now Michigan, at the fifth spot, would play — guess who — Penn State in the first round.

At this point, Michigan finds itself out of 1-seed contention and more along the lower end of the 2-3 seed range. However, that is far from set in stone: the Wolverines still have a date with No. 2 Indiana in both teams’ last game of the conference season, and then there’s the Big Ten tournament to consider. With all the fluctuation of teams at the top this season, Michigan could easily find itself back in the conversation for a 1 seed with a win over Indiana this Sunday.

Nitty Gritty, Bracketology Roundup, Big Ten Bubble Report and Bracket Debate after the jump.

Nitty Gritty:

  • Record: 23-5
  • RPI: 10
  • SOS: 35
  • Home: 16-0
  • Away: 4-5
  • Neutral: 3-0
  • vs. RPI Top 50: 8-4
  • vs. RPI Top 100: 10-4

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 (25-4 overall, 13-3 Big Ten, 6 RPI): The Hoosiers still find themselves in excellent position despite a jarring loss on the road to Minnesota, with a 1 seed across the board. That’s what leading the Big Ten will do — Indiana has so many great wins that a loss against a middling conference team won’t push them out of a top seed. They still have a tough test Tuesday night against Ohio State, followed by a road game at Michigan.
  • Michigan (23-5 overall, 11-5 Big Ten, 10 RPI): Michigan has some work to do if it hopes to reclaim its spot among the 1 seeds, and first on the Wolverines’ to-do list is to go on the road and get a much needed away victory at Purdue.
  • Michigan State (21-7 overall, 11-5 Big Ten, 8 RPI): The Spartans appear to be in a dead heat with Michigan as far as NCAA tournament seeding goes, also holding down a 3 seed in most brackets. Michigan State is currently suffering a three-game losing streak but has only home games left on its schedule, against Wisconsin and Northwestern.
  • Ohio State (21-7 overall, 11-5 Big Ten, 21 RPI): The Buckeyes are truly all over the place when it comes to NCAA tournament seeding: Jerry Palm has them as a 7 seed, Bracket watch as a 4, and everyone else somewhere in between. Ohio State has a golden opportunity in front of them with a road match-up against Indiana on Tuesday, and they close out the conference season against Illinois.
  • Wisconsin (20-9 overall, 11-5 Big Ten, 41 RPI): After a perplexing double-digit loss on its home floor against lowly Purdue, the Badgers find themselves solidly in the 5-6 seed range. Wisconsin has a couple road games to close out the season: at Michigan State and at Penn State.

Should be in:

  • Minnesota (20-9 overall, 8-8 Big Ten, 16 RPI): Minnesota’s home victory over Indiana was exactly what the Gophers needed, and it made a big impression on the bracketologists: most have Minnesota as a 5 or 6 seed, with the lowest being a 7. The Gophers look to be dancing this year.

Bubble in:

  • Illinois (20-9 overall, 8-8 Big Ten, 35 RPI): In a stretch of seven games that saw them beating Indiana and Minnesota, and losing only once — to Michigan on the road — the Illini have looked like a tournament team. And as of now, they are: Illinois holds an 8-10 seed in most brackets. With two road games remaining – at Iowa and Ohio State – the Illini have some great chances to solidify their resume.

Bracket Debate: Can Michigan reclaim a 1 seed?

After spending much of the season at least in the conversation for a 1 seed, Michigan now finds itself on the outside looking in when it comes to a top spot in the NCAA tournament after an embarrassing loss at Big Ten-worst Penn State. So is it possible for the Wolverines to reclaim a top seed? And if so, what has to happen for them to do it?

The short answer to the first question: yes, probably. The short answer to the second question: a lot.

First, Michigan has an excellent opportunity in front of them in its last conference game, going up against top-seeded Indiana. If the Wolverines can beat Indiana at home, that will go a long way to proving to the selection committee that they deserve a 1 seed. However, that won’t be enough. Along with what Michigan does, whether or not it can reclaim a 1 seed will depend on what teams at the top do to close out their seasons.

Given the wide-open nature of college basketball this season, it’s reasonable to expect there to be some shuffling at the top before the conference slates are over. The teams jockeying for position at the top seeds right now are Kansas, Louisville, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Duke, Indiana, Florida and Miami. Several of those teams have tough tests to close out the regular season. Duke’s last game is at North Carolina, a throw-out-the-records sort of match-up; Georgetown has a road game against a dangerous Villanova team followed by a home date with Syracuse; Indiana of course closes out its season with a home game against Ohio State and a road match-up with Michigan; even Florida closes out its conference season with a match-up against Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Michigan will need a few of those teams to drop games they’re supposed to win if it wants to dream of recapturing a top seed.

But even a win over Indiana and other top teams losing likely won’t be enough. That’s where the Big Ten tournament comes into play. Michigan will likely need to make a significant run and beat some Big Ten teams of note in order to secure a 1 seed, while a tournament championship would seem to put the Wolverines in a great spot for a top seed. Michigan is likely looking at a seeding in the 2-3 seed range, as things stand today, but the next two weeks could take still see that number go up or down.

  • mistersuits

    Michigan could reclaim a 1-seed if the Penn State game was in January. But this one will be too late in the year to “recover” from. Even now in a best-case win-out scenario is not enough to leapfrog the 6 or 7 teams ahead of them for the one line.

    Optimal scenario within statistical reality: Michigan lands a 2-seed and favorable matchups while MSU loses to Wisconsin and in BTT quarters and drops to a 4-seed out of Auburn Hills.

    • What’s wrong with MSU in Auburn Hills? I suppose some fan carry over is what you worry about?

      • mistersuits

        No MSU fans in Auburn Hills would make for a much better environment for the Wolverines no doubt. Especially against a host of very talented potential 7 seeds like VCU, UNC, UCLA, etc. in what will likely be a closely contested game.

        • Joel_C

          I’m really hoping for Michigan & MSU at the Palace, it’d be cool to have both local B1G teams there. And if we win out (including the BTT) we’re a lock for a 1-seed.

          • Mith

            Agreed, a 29-5 UM team should get a #1, especially if they beat IU twice over the next 2 weeks. Not saying it will happen, but if it does in a best-case scenario, this team gets a #1.

    • UM Hoops Fan

      If win out means win our next to and then win the BTT, we will almost definitely be a 1 seed. It could happen that we wouldn’t — If Gtown, Kansas, Zags, and Miami or Duke all win out too, but even then I’d like our chances.

      However, that’s a tall task. If we can win the next two and then win at least one in the BTT, we’re probably pretty safe at a 2 slot, which would be nice. 2 + 2 would do it for sure.

      Mostly, I’d just like to see us play our good basketball. Do that, everything else will fall into place.

      Also, a question — would falling to a four seed knock MSU (or us) out of Auburn Hills?

  • mistersuits

    The thing about the BTT, the championship game has no bearing on seed because it’s played hours before the selection show and the committee has already decided. The only time this might impact seeding is if a non-tournament team would win the league autobid and bump someone else off the line. That will not be the case here.

    The only conceivable scenario wherein Michigan could achieve a one seed and thereby leap Louisville, Florida, Georgetown, Miami and one of Duke/Kansas/Gonzaga/Indiana is essentially a KenPom statistical nonstarter.

    – Neither Georgetown nor Louisville win Big East tournament.
    – Neither Duke nor Miami wins ACC tournament or both get at least one more loss before selection sunday.
    – Kansas does not win Big 12 tournament.
    – Gonzaga loses in WCC tournament.
    – Indiana loses to OSU thereby:
    – Michigan wins out and splits share of B1G regular season title and wins *convincingly* over IU and BTT quarters/semis.

    In other words, let’s just take care of business and root for a good draw as a 2-seed!

    • arsenal926

      don’t think thats true, MSU was projected as a 2 seed before beating OSU in the big ten tournament last year and moved up to a 1 seed. Also when the media was doing their mock tournament selection Michigan was originally a 2 seed but they won the simulated BTT and were given a 1 seed.

  • Mattski

    Maybe Indiana really IS the class of the conference and they buzzsaw everyone in the tourney. But otherwise I see the whole thing as a crapshoot, and Michigan as likely to lose in a second or third game as not. And a little rest before the NCAAs start would not be the worst thing for this very young team, which I am convinced is among the country’s top ten teams, quite possibly a Final Four contender. For some reason I am much keener to see the team do well in the Big Dance than in a grinding Big Ten tourney–shine on the bigger stage. Anyone else see it that way?