Bracket Watch: March 6th, 2017

Orion Sang
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Entering this week, the belief here at UMHoops was that Michigan needed at least one more win to feel safe. The Wolverines nearly got it, too, on their first try, but Northwestern had something to say about that.

While the missed opportunity to pick up a big win on the road may have carried more weight had Michigan not picked up wins against Wisconsin or Purdue earlier in the second half of the season, the Wolverines did. That left them with a road game against Nebraska — a team which Michigan has not lost to since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten — and the Wolverines rebounded rather nicely, running Nebraska out of the gym thanks to a stellar performance from Derrick Walton Jr. and others.

The 93-57 blowout win should wrap things up for Michigan and take them off the bubble. All that’s left is the Big Ten Tournament, where a couple of chances to maybe get themselves off the 8/9 line await the Wolverines — including a first round rematch against Illinois and Maverick Morgan, whose ‘white-collar’ comment seems to have spurred Michigan’s second-half transformation.

Nitty Gritty

  • Record: 20-11
  • RPI: 47
  • SOS: 36
  • Home: 15-3
  • Away: 3-8
  • Neutral: 2-0
  • vs. RPI top-50: 4-7
  • vs. RPI top-100: 11-11

Bracketology Rundown

Locks

  • Purdue (25-6, 18 RPI): Purdue is rolling into the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilermakers are 8-1 in their last nine games, have the highest RPI in the league and have the highest KenPom rating in the conference, No. 13, by nine spots. They will most likely be the only Big Ten team to receive a top-four seed.
  • Minnesota (23-8, 20 RPI): The Golden Gophers had an eight-game winning streak snapped in their regular season finale against Wisconsin, but that loss hasn’t done much to change their tournament prognostication. Their average seed number in brackets is currently 6.
  • Maryland (24-7, 25 RPI): The Terps head into the conference tourney with a little bit of momentum, ripping off two wins after a three-game losing streak. Melo Trimble’s last second three-pointer against Michigan State on Saturday clinched second place in the Big Ten for Maryland. It’ll have the opportunity to pick up a couple more wins heading into the NCAA Tournament with the Big Ten Tournament located just minutes from campus. 
  • Wisconsin (23-8, 38 RPI): Wisconsin has had one hell of a slide over the past month or so. The Badgers finished the regular season 2-5 in their last seven games, and their average seed number across all brackets (as given by Bracket Matrix) is right around 7 at this point.
  • Michigan (20-11, 47 RPI): The Wolverines’ win at Nebraska should have punched their ticket, but they still look to be squarely in the mix for the 8-9 game. 
  • Northwestern (21-10, 54 RPI): Things were looking pretty dicey for a moment there, but the Wildcats’ (literal) Hail Mary against Michigan appears to have them back in a safe spot. A win over Purdue on Sunday would definitely have done the job, but Northwestern faltered down the stretch.

Bubble In

  • Michigan State (18-13, 48 RPI): Two consecutive losses to Illinois and Maryland have things looking a little dicey for the Spartans. They are seeded fifth, though, in the Big Ten Tournament, and should have a chance to pick up one more win against either Penn State or Nebraska. Their RPI — now one spot behind Michigan’s — continues to be pulled up by their impressive early non-conference slate.

Bubble Out

  • Illinois (18-13, 57 RPI): The Fighting Illini ripped off a four-game winning streak … only to see it come to an end at the hands of conference doormat Rutgers. While that loss was certainly terrible, it may not have dealt a death blow to Illinois’ tourney chances: they face a certain tourney team — Michigan — in the first round of the BTT, and if they win there, get a shot at Purdue. There’s no question that a few more wins are definitely needed, though.
  • Iowa (18-13, 72 RPI): The Hawkeyes, led by Peter Jok and ascending sophomore Nicholas Baer, ended the regular season with four consecutive wins, including a pair over Maryland and Wisconsin. Like Illinois, however, they will need a really good Big Ten Tournament to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Early season losses to Memphis and Nebraska Omaha are the biggest blemish on Iowa’s resume. 

Bracket Debate: Which top seeds would you want Michigan to be placed with? And are there any you’d prefer the Wolverines not to be in the same region as?

At this point, Michigan seems locked into a tourney bid — and a bid, it appears, that will have them placed in the same four-team grouping as a 1 or 2 seed. It has been somewhat of a wide-open year so far, with last year’s national champion Villanova ranking as KenPom’s second-best team and the runner-up, North Carolina, as the fourth-best. The Wolverines have already faced one team that could end up in that 1-2 range in UCLA. Out of that general grouping of 8-9 teams

Let your opinion be heard below in the comments section. (Villanova, Kansas, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Oregon, Baylor, Louisville and UCLA), who would you prefer Michigan ends up with? Which teams would you prefer Michigan avoids? Which teams do you think the Wolverines match-up best (and worst) against?


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  • Tony DeMaria

    Whats awesome is that even for the worriers or those worried about avoiding the first 4, the fact we play Illinois in the first round guarantees that at worst we suffer a neutral court loss to a top 55 RPI team. No possibility of a bad loss means we are watching the Selection Show to see where we land not IF we land

  • Tony DeMaria

    As far as my must avoids, even though Michigan has done a lot better at limiting good 3 point looks lately and greatly improved their defense overall to ‘passable’, I’d still prefer to face a elite high volume 3 point shooting team, possibly even more than a team with a lot of skilled physical post players. I think in the latter scenario we are definitely at a disadvantage but because our offense can all shoot and can all put the ball on the floor, we somewhat mitigate that advantage with a team that has traditional slow footed bigs. Or maybe I am taking too much from the Purdue win.

  • gobluemd16

    What do you guys think: would we move up to the 7-line if we beat Illinois and Purdue? If we wouldn’t (and didn’t go on a run), maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to lose our first game and fall to the 10-line. Obviously not advocating the team lose, of course, but wouldn’t you feel equally confident against a 7-seed versus an 8/9? And the second round would be easier, in my opinion.

  • mistersuits

    Simple, win the Big Ten Tournament and get a 6 seed.

  • ChiMan

    The interesting thing is, on a neutral court, none of those teams sound particularly desirable but at the same time, none of them feel insurmountable. I feel like the way the team is playing right now, in particular Walton, that teams not having long to prepare for Michigan are going to have a tough time matching up with us, assuming we bring our A-game. Selfishly, I wouldn’t mind a Louisville rematch from a few years ago. But if I had to pick, I’d say avoid Baylor & Oregon and prefer Louisville & Gonzaga.

  • Joel_C

    If we get an 8 or 9 seed, I’d be *begging* to get Gonzaga as our 1. They often seem to be ill-prepared for elite competition after 2 months of facing sub-par West Coast Conference opponents. I’d take us all day in that match-up.

  • ChathaM

    I’d prefer to face teams with as few pros on the roster as possible. As we don’t have an elite defender, a team with multiple pros could tear us apart, the way UCLA did in December. So, I’d prefer to avoid a team like Kentucky or UNC, who I just don’t think we could guard, as they have too many weapons. Gonzaga has a lot of weapons as well, so they’d be a tough matchup. I think Baylor could be a good matchup for us, as we’d likely get plenty of great looks against their zone, and they aren’t the type of high flying offence that could dominate us. I think we could guard Lousville as well, as I don’t think Mitchell would be able to dominate. So, I’ll say avoid Kentucky, UNC, and UCLA. Welcome Baylor or Louisville

  • Fab 5 Legends

    I would take Villanova/Baylor/Kentucky bracket side…I feel we would matchup well with all 3, and they don’t scare…Villanova rely on all their guard play and we could outscore them…I love to get revenge on Louisville but they seem strong…I would avoid UNC, Kansas, UCLA – all big athletic teams…we are also a 8/9 seed that no #1 wants to play that early…we will give them a battle…I’m not a believer in Gonzaga and feel like their 8/9 see will possibly knock them out but I think they might overwhelm us downlow…tricky to play Gonzaga, soft conference – only 1 close game they lost to BYU…

  • bobohle

    I would prefer Gonzaga / Louisville. Having played them @ Pauly pretty well for 30 minutes UCLA may not be a bad choice. Otherwise you play the hand you are dealt.

    • bobohle

      8 or 9 seed you get the same match up second round. We need to pray for at least a seven seed. Whatever the seed our opponent will not be happy to see us as their opponent. Especially if we carry our play from Neb through the B!G Tourney. Do you think Steve Alford would be excited to see us on a neutral court?

  • ChiMan

    Just had a thought while sitting here watching the Miami/Syracuse game. I’d love it if we were to draw Syracuse in the 8/9, 7/10 First Round match-up. I’d love to get some revenge on them for the Tyus Battle situation.