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.
- 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
- Joe Lunardi/ESPN: 9 seed vs. St. Mary’s — February 8th
- Jerry Palm/CBS: 9 seed vs. Seton Hall — February 8th
- Yahoo Big Board: 9 seed – February 8th
- SI.com: 8 seed – February 8th
- Crashing the Dance: 10 seed — February 8th
- Bracket Matrix: 9 seed — February 9th
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- at Ohio State
- at Wisconsin
- 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.