Bracket Watch: February 14th, 2017

Orion Sang
on

To put it simply, it was a big week for Michigan. After a home loss to Ohio State left the Wolverines (6-6 Big Ten, 16-9 overall) leaning on the wrong edge of the bubble, Derrick Walton Jr. — who shared Big Ten Player of the Week with Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy — and the rest of the team issued a course correction. A 29-point romp over Michigan State last Tuesday coupled with a road win (!) at Indiana on Sunday pushed Michigan closer to the right side of things.

With just six games left on the regular season conference schedule, here is the first edition of our annual Bracket Watch feature to track Michigan’s standing in various bracketology updates and follow the NCAA Tournament process across the Big Ten.

While Michigan’s performance may have cemented itself as a “Bubble In” team for now, there are still plenty of chances to either move up or down before Selection Sunday. Home games this Thursday against No. 11 Wisconsin and on Feb. 26 against No. 16 Purdue could strengthen Michigan’s resume, while four more road games loom large — including trips to Minnesota this Sunday and a trip to Evanston to face a Northwestern team that seemingly clinched a bid with a win over the Badgers two nights ago.

The Wolverines have struggled away from Crisler all season — they are just 1-6 on the road this season — but at this point need to pick up as many wins as possible.

Nitty Gritty

  • Record: 16-9
  • RPI: 58
  • SOS: 47
  • Home: 13-3
  • Away: 1-6
  • Neutral: 2-0
  • vs. RPI top-50: 2-6
  • vs. RPI top-100: 9-8

Bracketology Rundown

Locks

  • Wisconsin (21-4, 23 RPI): While it may have seemed harsh that the Badgers were left out of the preliminary top-16 seeds released by the NCAA Committee, on second look, that ranking does make sense — Wisconsin has a gaudy record, but its SOS (No. 76) is mediocre. In a down year for the Big Ten, being the best team out of the conference probably won’t be enough to snag a top-2 seed. 
  • Purdue (20-4, 19 RPI): The Boilermakers are cruising along and actually have a higher RPI than conference foe Wisconsin. Led by Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan, Purdue also boasts a 5-3 record against the RPI top-50.
  • Maryland (20-4, 22 RPI): The Terps had a relatively weak non-conference schedule, but that hasn’t appeared to have hurt them. They are in a good spot at the moment, and the rest of the season should dictate just how comfortable of a spot they have once the tournament rolls around.
  • Northwestern (19-6, 33 RPI): It has been a long time coming, but its hard to imagine the Wildcats ending up anywhere other than the NCAA Tournament after a big win over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center.

Bubble In

  • Minnesota (18-7, 24 RPI): A recent five-game losing streak got the Golden Gophers to where they are now, which is on the bubble. But Minnesota is still in a relatively good spot, now has a three-game winning streak, and also has a manageable schedule the rest of the way with games against Michigan, Wisconsin and Purdue that could help the team move up.
  • Michigan State (15-10, 41 RPI): It has been a rocky year for the Spartans, who are still somewhat buoyed by their crazy non-conference schedule. Miles Bridges, though, looks back to being his normal self, and the old adage still applies: never doubt Tom Izzo in March (except against Middle Tennessee State, perhaps).
  • Michigan (16-9, 58 RPI): The Wolverines were leaning toward the “Bubble Out” section before a pair of crucial wins against Michigan State and Indiana.

Bubble Out

  • Indiana (15-11, 93 RPI) and Ohio State (15-11, 63 RPI) both appear to be on the outside looking in at this point with the Hoosiers trending in the wrong direction. Indiana has lost 5 of its last 6 and its marquee non-conference wins over North Carolina and Kentucky are a distant memory.

Bracket Debate: Should any Big Ten team make the top-16?

There was a lot of consternation earlier in the week when it was revealed that not one Big Ten team made the NCAA’s top-16 seeds as of Saturday afternoon. The truth, though, is that the conference is slightly down this year at the top. Wisconsin and Purdue would have the best arguments, but the Badgers turned around and lost to Northwestern at home on Sunday — not providing much ground to stand on.

Of course, there is still time left for all teams to move up and down, so there can be no definitive answer just yet. But it appears the committee has things accurately gauged — for now.

Perhaps the bigger concern is for the league’s many bubble teams. What does it mean for Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota’s tournament hopes if they are playing in a league that doesn’t have a single top-16 team?

What do you think? Let your opinion be heard below in the comments section. Do you think a Big Ten team should be in the top-16 right now? Do you see a Big Ten team moving into that range before the tournament starts? Will a bubble team find itself disappointed because of the down year in the conference?

  • Champswest

    Not a good year to be a Big Ten bubble team. We might only get 5 or 6 teams in this year. Better keep winning.

  • ChathaM

    I’d think that if Wisconsin, Purdue, or Maryland wins the B1G tourney, they’ll end up as one of the top 16 seeds.

    As for B1G bubble teams, the committee always says that they view teams as just that, and not as members of conferences. That should mean that a perceived down B1G should not impact the tourney chances of teams like IU, MSU, or us. I’m looking forward to seeing whether the conference is truly down, or whether it’s simply more of a balanced league than we’ve seen in a while. There seem to be more road wins than normal in the conference this year, which could indicate that there are more good teams than normal, which wouldn’t necessarily indicate a down year for the conference overall. When NCAA tourney time rolls around, I would not be surprised to see B1G teams show well (even if only 6 get in).

    • AA7596

      Well, the problem with that is the B1G didn’t show very well in November and December. The one team that did (IU) isn’t the same team anymore.

      As for whether the committee takes conferences into account: Even though they say they don’t, that’s kind of a red herring. Since over half your games are against your own conference, your league affiliation is baked into all of your metrics. That’s why Wisconsin (for one) has some surprisingly weak numbers like SOS and record vs. top 50).

      • ChathaM

        Yeah, that’s a good point.

  • A2MIKE

    I know comparing year over year is dangerous because not all things are equal, but I find it mystifying that Michigan State is projected by so many pundits to be in the field. Last year a team that did the following was left out of the tournament: 8-5 non conference and 12-8 in conference (including B1G tourney) for a total of 20-13 overall. 2-8 vs. Kenpom 1-25, 1-2 vs. Kenpom 26-50, 3-1 vs. Kenpom 51-100 and 14-2 vs. Kenpom 100+. Best win: #6 Kentucky (neutral). Worst loss #154 Louisiana Tech (home). 4-6 record in true road games.

    Michigan State’s resume this year: 8-5 non conference and 7-5 in conference. For comparison sake, lets project them to 11-9 in conference (1-1 in B1G) AND give them wins over Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. They would finish 19-14 overall. 2-6 vs. Kenpom 1-25, 4-3 vs. Kenpom 26-50, 5-3 vs. Kenpom 51-100 and 7-1 vs Kenpom 100+. I didn’t project the B1G tourney games into the rankings vs. record calculation. Best win: #16 Wichita State (neutral). Worst loss: #136 Northeastern (home). Currently 2-4 in true road games and will be a solid underdog in 2 of the 3 remaining road games, projected to finish 2-7.

    Michigan’s resume this year: 10-3 non conference and 6-6 in conference. Let’s project Michigan to finish at 10-10 in conference (1-1 in B1G) AND give them wins over Wisconsin, Rutgers and Nebraska. They would finish 20-13 overall. 2-3 vs. Kenpom 1-25, 3-4 vs. Kenpom 26-50, 7-5 vs. Kenpom 51-100 and 7-0 vs. Kenpom 100+. Again didn’t project the quality of the B1G tourney wins. Best win: #12 SMU (neutral). Worst loss: #76 Illinois (road). Currently 1-6 in true road games, but will be a solid favorite in 2 of remaining 4 road games, projected to finish 3-8. Michigan will have played 11 true road games and 6 of them were against the Kenpom top 50, with a 7th (MSU) sitting at #54.

    Michigan should be solidly in the tournament when compared with MSU. It really isn’t that close. All that being said, just WIN THE GAME(S).

    • jleec33

      Unfortunately the committee will continue using the antiquated RPI metric for selecting and seeding teams this season. Thus, making an argument between the two teams using advanced metrics like KenPom doesn’t hold much water. However, there is hope in the near future! The committee will move towards using advanced metrics like KenPom, Sagarin, and BPI in 2018.

  • bobohle

    As long as Michigan plays the way they played the last two games and takes care of business (Especially if Zak emerges from his funk) M will be in.

    • bobohle

      ……..and not the play in game this time.

      • Tony DeMaria

        They shouldn’t have been in the play in game last year IMO.

  • ChiMan

    Two quick notes about our schedule / resume that I think are interesting. First, man….that win against SMU is looking better and better each day! Sure it was early in the season but we whipped them pretty good and on a neutral court. I had the same hopes for that Marquette win but they’ve been a bit up and down. The other note being, that close win over Furman is also starting to pay dividends! They are winning their league (and pretty easily at that). That win is now a top 100 win. I don’t think it will happen but if we could somehow get that to a top 50 win, that would be huge!

  • Bird

    I see what you did with that photo. Happy Ted Day. (Great “Who ya crappin’?” look from Coach, too.)

    I don’t see any more lapses in intensity from this team. I like us for a 5-1 finish.

  • Indiana_Matt

    I think Purdue and Wisconsin can play with the majority of the 16 teams they have on the board.