Bracket Watch: February 9th, 2016

Dylan Burkhardt

There are only five weeks left in the regular season and Michigan finds itself squarely on the bubble with seven league games to play. That means it’s time to bring back our annual Bracket Watch feature to track Michigan’s standing in various bracketology updates and follow the NCAA tournament process across the Big Ten.

If the field was selected today, Michigan would be in the NCAA tournament. But there are still seven games to play which leaves little margin for error for a Michigan team that was throttled at home twice last week.

Wednesday’s game at Minnesota is as close to a must-win as it gets as the Wolverines need to maintain the lack of a ‘bad loss’ on their resume — currently Michigan’s worst RPI losses are Indiana and UConn, both expected to make the tournament — but they also need to pick up some more quality wins.

The remaining schedule is daunting, with five ‘tier A’ games remaining according to KenPom, but those games are also opportunities to boost the tournament profile with a victory.

Nitty Gritty

  • Record: 17-7
  • RPI: 54
  • SOS: 59
  • Home: 10-3
  • Away: 3-3
  • Neutral: 3-1
  • vs. RPI top-50: 2-6
  • vs. RPI top-100: 4-7

Bracketology Rundown


  • Iowa (19-4, 8 RPI): The Hawkeyes have climbed up to the top seed line according to most Bracketologists and that should come as no surprise as they’ve dominated the Big Ten since conference play started.
  • Michigan State (20-4, 18 RPI): The Spartans put their rough January start behind them and are cruising in Big Ten play now. Sitting at the 3-seed line right now, Michigan State has plenty of forward momentum to push toward a higher seed line.
  • Maryland (21-3, 4 RPI): The Terps are ranked 2nd in the country, but most bracketologists have them on the three-seed line as well. A closer examination of Maryland’s roster reveals just 3 top-50 wins with relatively few chances remaining to make a splash.
  • Purdue (19-5, 22 RPI): Purdue is comfortably in the dance, but currently sits near the 5-seed line. The Boilermakers are just 2-3 against top-50 teams and don’t have a top-50 win in Big Ten play.

Bubble In

  • Indiana (19-5, 55 RPI): Despite the gaudy conference record, Indiana’s resume is less-impressive upon closer inspection. The Hoosiers have questionable losses to Wake Forest, UNLV and now Penn State and only have one top-50 win (over Notre Dame). That’s not nearly the resume that you would expect from a 19-5 (9-2 B1G) team, but a home win over Iowa this week could reaffirm the Hoosiers’ tournament chances. Right now, Indiana sits around the 8 seed line in most bracket projections.
  • Michigan (17-7, 54 RPI): The Wolverines are in the field right now, but that schedule and their recent play aren’t encouraging. They can right the ship with a much-needed victory and the eventual return of Caris LeVert could give John Beilein’s team the boost it needs to get over the hump down the stretch.

Bubble Out

  • Wisconsin (14-9, 65 RPI): The Badgers have played themselves back into the NCAA tournament picture with five straight conference wins, but they still have to make up for an ugly 8-5 non-conference slate with losses to Western Illinois, Milwaukee and Marquette. Wisconsin is out of the NCAA field in most projections right now, but a few more quality wins and Greg Gard could have his group back in the NCAA tournament picture.

Bracket Debate: How many wins?

The only question that anyone wants answered is how many more wins does Michigan need to punch a ticket to the dance?

The bare minimum seems to be three — meaning wins at Minnesota and vs. Northwestern with at least one additional quality victory (over a good team at home or a decent team on the road). A 20-11 (10-8) finish would probably put Michigan squarely on the bubble and probably require at least a bit of additional work at the Big Ten Tournament.

On the other hand, a 4-3 finish would punch Michigan’s ticket. That would be an 11-7 conference record, a pair of additional quality wins and a resume that features predominantly losses to NCAA tournament teams.

Now, where do the wins come from? Here’s how I’d rank the schedule from most likely to least.

  • at Minnesota
  • Northwestern
  • at Ohio State
  • Purdue
  • at Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • at Maryland

How many of those games do you see the Wolverines winning? Let your opinion be heard in our poll and comments section below.

View Results

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  • nswan

    I know that it’s hard to keep speculating when/if Levert is coming back with B’s fuzzy language on the injury, but feel good that he should be back in the next two games. With his return, I think and hope that he brings an edge to the court that Michigan has been lacking. I dont expect him to be at his all-american level of play (although it would be nice), but at least he has shown his leadership and that he wont back down from people and situations. I think that will go a long ways for this team right now and get us in the tourny

  • Nick

    Just find a way in and this team can be dangerous. It’s not uncommon for Belein’s teams to get beat up a little bit in Big Ten play and then have a good showing in the tourney. Lets not forget that MSU beat Michigan even more handily in 2012 in the Breslin before the Final Four run. I’m not predicting a similar run for this team but they can certainly make some noise.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    hoping for 4 wins…Minn, NW, Purdue and or Iowa…a win against Iowa or Purdue would be huge…I thought we played better without Levert until the last 2 games…he is a skilled player and makes us more dangerous…but sometimes i dont think the rest of the players mesh well with him…sometimes it seems like Walton/Irvin defer to Levert…instead of playing through him….hopefully all 3 stay healthy and get some chemisty going…as of now we need Levert back in there…if we dont have tough players at least we have 1 of the best players in the country which can change the game and strategy

    • Fab 5 Legends

      must win against Minn/NW….if we go 1-1 i will be worried…we do have a daunting stretch to end the season…protect home court!! go BLUE…i predict a #9 or #10 seed or play-in game…if we make it to the sweet sixteen it will be a really SUCCESSFUL season…im sure we are not predicted to advance more than 1 game…but if our 3’s are going down and we are healthy we can definitely dance over some teams!

    • Interesting about LeVert is that Michigan played better without him at first perhaps because they weren’t as well scouted. LeVert in the mix means that it’s harder to scout and take away every option.

      Irvin goes back to being a secondary option as a creator rather than the only one, Duncan has more dribble penetration to play off of, etc.