Michigan Wolverines basketball (17-9, 8-7 Big Ten) is inching closer and closer to being a “lock” in the NCAA Tournament field.
The Wolverines were in serious jeopardy in late January after a rough stretch, before flipping the script and winning six of seven games. At the moment, U-M is more concerned about “when, where and against who,” than “if” it’s going to make the Big Dance. We still wouldn’t consider Juwan Howard’s team a “lock,” because if it lost the remainder of its games, there’s no guarantee dancing would follow.
Nonetheless, U-M is in a good spot.
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Michigan Wolverines Basketball’s Eli Brooks and Isaiah Livers are leading their team closer and closer to the NCAA Tournament. (USA Today Sports Images)
ESPN bracket expert Joe Lunardi has U-M slated as a No. 7 seed, while CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has the Wolverines projected as a No. 6 seed. Both had U-M as a No. 8 seed just a week ago, proving that the hot streak U-M currently rides is allowing it to climb rapidly up the seeding ladder.
After a 24-point win over Indiana at home Sunday and an eight-point victory at The RAC against Rutgers Wednesday, the first road triumph at the venue this season, U-M has climbed to 24th in today’s version of the NCAA’s official NET Rankings, which factors in game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency and the quality of wins and losses.
In addition to NET Rankings, a large factor that the selection committee takes into consideration is quadrant records, broken down by opponent’s NET rank and where the game took place:
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
Michigan’s Record By Quadrant
U-M’s win over Rutgers Wednesday qualified as a quad 1 win, while the Sunday victory over Indiana was quad 2.
U-M is one of 15 teams with six or more quad 1 victories, while having played 14 of those games (a host of teams are tied for the most with 15 quad 1 games).
To this point in the season, U-M has had the third-toughest schedule in the nation, according to Kenpom, meaning that just about every win has been quality, and there have been very few, if any, bad losses.
To put into perspective how tough the Big Ten is this year, 12 of the 14 teams in the conference rank in the top-60 in the NET. For context, the ACC has five teams in the top-60.
Here’s a look at U-M’s best wins and worst losses.
Michigan’s Best Wins / Worst Losses (NET Rank)
Sure, U-M could have used a few more wins in the Big Ten slate to this point, but the losses haven’t made a huge dent on the résumé, as the Wolverines’ worst loss is on the road to Minnesota, followed by a close home loss to Illinois.
By the same token, U-M’s tough schedule has allowed for one of the best lists of wins in college basketball, including quite possibly the season’s best win — a neutral site victory over Gonzaga — which is the Bulldogs’ only loss still to this point. The home win over Creighton continues to look more and more impressive, after the Bluejays have now won eight of nine games in the Big East. The win at Rutgers this week is one of the best U-M touts, as well, proving the Maize and Blue can grab tough wins on the road.
The big question is, assuming U-M makes the tournament, is what seed it will end up as.
Here’s a look at each seven, six and five seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament field, and their résumés.
5, 6 and 7 Seeds From The 2018-19 NCAA Tournament
One observation from looking at these teams from 2018-19, is that U-M has the latitude to move up, if it continues to string together wins at the end of the regular season and in the Big Ten Tournament.
As we mentioned earlier, experts have U-M as a six or seven seed. U-M’s record by quadrant and NET ranking are comparable to the teams that got those same seeds last season, but the Wolverines have opportunities upcoming to improve the résumé and move up to a five seed or beyond.
Still, there’s games to be played, and the Wolverines could drop a few games and find itself back on the eight or nine line.
Here’s U-M’s remaining regular season schedule, and where the opponents rank in the NET. As it stands today (the rankings are updated daily), the Maize and Blue have the opportunity to pick up four more quad 1 wins in the last five games.
at Purdue (32)
vs. Wisconsin (29)
at Ohio State (22)
vs. Nebraska (183)
at Maryland (8)
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