Bracket Watch: February 20th, 2014

Michigan vs Iowa_5Last weekend wasn’t very fun for Michigan. After a great win against Ohio State in Columbus, the Wolverines followed up with a clunker at home on Sunday against Wisconsin, falling to the Badgers 75-62. Michigan looked flat out of the gate, and though it made a valiant comeback effort, Wisconsin was able to shut the door late. (Photo: Scott Mapes)

The good news for Michigan is that the loss didn’t have an appreciable impact on its spot atop the Big Ten regular-season standings. Surprisingly, Michigan State suffered a loss against Nebraska at home about two hours after Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers’ defeat of the Spartans left both teams at 10-3 in the conference, and both teams with a share of first place. Michigan and Michigan State will square off at the Crisler Center on Sunday for a game that will go a long way toward deciding who takes home the Big Ten regular-season crown.

For Michigan, its loss to Wisconsin meant a fall of a spot or two in a current bracket projections down to the four seed range. But at this point, far more meaningful to the Wolverines is their continued quest for the Big Ten — and not just for the conference title. The winner of the conference will likely also receive a favorable regional placement, with games in Indianapolis.

So Michigan’s matchup against the Spartans looms large. After that, the Wolverines face mostly Big Ten bottom-feeders. Having already gone through the two major tough stretches on the schedule, if Michigan can get a victory against Michigan State on Sunday, all signs point to smooth sailing the rest of the way. But in this season’s topsy-turvy Big Ten season, anything is possible.

After the jump we have an in-depth look at Michigan NCAA tournament resume, predictions from notable bracketologists as far as Michigan’s potential seeding and a discussion of how other Big Ten teams are faring in the most recent bracket projections.

Nitty Gritty

  • Record: 18-7
  • RPI: 16
  • SOS: 4
  • Home: 10-2
  • Away: 5-4
  • Neutral: 3-1
  • vs. RPI top-50: 6-5
  • vs. RPI top-100: 9-5

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.

Locks:

  • Michigan State (21-5 overall, 10-3 Big Ten, 19 RPI) The Spartans really missed their chance on Sunday to unseat Michigan and take sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. Oh, well. Michigan State will get its chance once again this coming Sunday as it travels to Ann Arbor for the most important conference matchup of the season. When the Wolverines played in East Lansing, they edged the Spartans with stellar efforts from Nik Stauskas and Derrick Walton. In Ann Arbor, Michigan State will have Adreian Payne back for the rematch.
  • Michigan (18-7 overall, 10-3 Big Ten, 16 RPI) Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin obviously isn’t a “bad” loss. The Badgers are on a 4-game win streak and had already defeated Michigan State at home before traveling to Ann Arbor — not to mention it was Michigan’s first home loss since its two-point defeat at the hands of Arizona. That being said, the loss did drop Michigan in every bracket prediction. Previously in the 2-3 seed range, Michigan now finds itself a 4-5 seed. The Wolverines have a chance to rectify that by beating Michigan State this weekend — the Spartans are projected as high as a 2-seed but are are mostly considered a 3-seed at this point.
  • Iowa (18-6 overall, 8-4 Big Ten, 24 RPI) If there’s a team that could be considered “on the heels” of Michigan and Michigan State in contention for the Big Ten crown, it’s Iowa. The Hawkeyes are still sitting in the 5-seed range, but they will have two major opportunities to move things around as far as seeding and, potentially, the final standings in the Big Ten: Iowa’s next game is against Wisconsin, with the Badgers in roughly the same position as the Hawkeyes; a couple weeks later, Iowa gets Michigan State on the road. If both teams keep winning, that could wind up being a marquee late-season matchup.
  • Wisconsin (21-5 overall, 8-5 Big Ten, 5 RPI) It’s tempting to say that Wisconsin has hit its stride, but in this year’s Big Ten it’s possible the Badgers are simply on a hot streak after starting off the conference season slowly. A key to Wisconsin’s recent success has been the emergence of Frank Kaminsky. The big man has scored in double-digits in some of the Badgers’ biggest games, including an efficient 10 points against Michigan State and a dominant 25 points against Michigan. Wisconsin’s win over Michigan certainly did wonders for its NCAA tournament resume: the Badgers sit firmly in the 3-4 seed range thanks to a handful of quality non-conference wins.
  • Ohio State (21-6 overall, 8-6 Big Ten, 15 RPI) The Buckeyes followed up a home loss to Michigan with two wins against the bottom of the Big Ten, beating Illinois on the road and Northwestern at home with relative ease. At this point, Ohio State sits in the 5-6 seed range, with one real opportunity to change that before the Big Ten tournament: that would be against Michigan State, at home, in the final regular-season game.

Bubble out:

  • Minnesota (16-10 overall, 6-8 Big Ten, 46 RPI) It’s very possible Minnesota played itself out of the NCAA tournament by losing to Illinois on Wednesday night at home. Before that, the Gophers were sitting tenuously at the 10-seed in every bracket projection. There is good reason for pessimism in Minneapolis at this point — Minnesota’s next three games? At Ohio State, home against Iowa, at Michigan. It’s shaping up to get ugly quick for the Gophers, barring them taking advantage of one of those opportunities to close out the regular season.
  • Nebraska (14-10 overall, 6-6 Big Ten, 52 RPI) Nebraska presents a very interesting case for the selection committee as the regular season winds down. More in the bracket debate below.

Bracket Debate: Will Nebraska make the NCAA tournament?

Nebraska kicked off the Big Ten season with probably the toughest conference schedule over the first five games. Three of those games were on the road against Iowa, Ohio State and Purdue. Two were at home against Michigan and Ohio State. The Huskers lost their first four Big Ten games as their disparate pieces learned to gel together — Terran Petteway is a sophomore transfer from Texas Tech, Walter Pitchford a sophomore transfer from Florida, Tai Webster is a freshman and Shavon Shields is a sophomore. The only player in the starting five with significant experience is Ray Gallegos, a senior who has played all four years at Nebraska. After both of Michigan’s games against Nebraska, John Beilein spoke at length on how good the Huskers will be once those players learn to play with each other.

Nebraska’s slow start was due to inexperience playing together and an exceedingly difficult schedule. Since losing to Purdue on the road, the Huskers have reeled off six wins in their past eight games, including victories over Ohio State and Michigan State. Nebraska has also been nearly impossible to beat at home, having lost only one game at the new Pinnacle Bank Arena — a 71-70 defeat at the hands of Michigan. The Huskers needed to prove their road chops for the selection committee and they did at the Breslin Center with their 60-51 victory over Michigan State on Sunday. The win sets them up nicely for a late regular-season run that could place them in the field of 68.

Of Nebraska’s six remaining games, four take place in the friendly confines of Pinnacle Bank Arena. Its two road games are at Illinois and at Indiana — both teams near the bottom of the Big Ten. The Huskers face one remaining tough test at home against Wisconsin — which, depending on how things turn out, could provide them with an opportunity to play their way into the tournament. Nebraska paid its dues early in the Big Ten season and now finds itself with nothing but winnable games standing in the way of it and dancing. The Huskers win with solid defense and timely shooting from players like Petteway and Shields. If Nebraska continues to play the way it’s capable of playing through the rest of the Big Ten season — specifically, if it wins the games it’s supposed to and beats Wisconsin at home — the Huskers will be in the tournament.

  • Hail Blue

    Here’s my take on it
    2 Seed. If we win the regular season title and tournament title
    3. If we win either the regular season title or tournament title
    4. We lose both
    We could be lower than that if we lose some other games we shouldn’t but realistically, this is how I see it.

  • alex

    Another issue to keep in mind is the location of the first round sites. There are only two real “Midwestern” sites: St. Louis and Milwaukee. Kansas (+3) and Wichita State (+3) both seem destined for St. Louis. I’d imagine the first two picks from the B1G get sent to Milwaukee. Otherwise, we could end up in some distant locales, such as Spokane or San Diego.

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

      Always a good resource here for distances…

      http://crashingthedance.com/distance.php

      Syracuse and Villanova would fit in Buffalo.
      Top 2 B1G seeds in Milwaukee
      Wichita and Kansas in St. Louis as you said.

      Iowa State, Cinci, Louisville, Creighton are some non-B1G that could be considered in Milwaukee as well.

      • rlcBlue

        I’m guessing St Louis and San Diego St can’t be placed in their home cities as protected seeds. A bit of a tough break there.

        I see Florida in Orlando, Arizona in San Diego and Duke in Raleigh – because that’s not Duke’s home town, whattacrock – but somebody’s gotta go to Spokane and San Antonio.

        • UMHoopsFan

          I don’t think there’s a restriction about being in the “home city.” A team can’t be the host school or have played in the arena a certain amount of times, I think. So because the MVC is the host of the St. Louis site, unless the Billikens have played in Scottrade Center a few times this year, they could be in the St. Louis pod.

          • rlcBlue

            Ah, I see. And that’s why Duke can play in Raleigh, I guess; NC State is the host school.

            I assume the Valley being the host in St Louis won’t prevent their champion from being placed there. As Alex and Dylan said, Kansas and Wichita State look like locks for St Louis, so unless the Billikens fall lower than a 4 seed, they’re headed out of town.

            San Diego State is the host school for the San Diego pod, so they’re probably headed for Spokane. Unexpectedly, the host there is not home-town Gonzaga but Washington State. The ‘Zags won’t be getting a top-4 seed – would the committee put them in Spokane as a 6 or 7 seed? Not in our pod, I hope.

  • section13row15

    4 seed is a little low in my opinion. Obviously, there’s a lot of basketball left and this game on Sunday will tell some of the tale moving forward but the first place team in the Big 10 should be vying for at least a 2 seed I would think. But our losses are starting to pile up a bit too, so I don’t know – it might be pretty fair. I’m guessing the bracketology analysts above don’t see us winning the big 10 based on their predictions.

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