Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Michigan 77 NC Central 57: Not Worth It

As expected, Michigan defeated North Carolina Central rather comfortably on Monday night. Manny Harris had 29 points and 16 rebounds, while DeShawn Sims added 17 and LLP 10 points.  NC Central is honestly the worst basketball team I have watched on TV this year.  Still, Michigan led by less than 10 at the half.  Let's not worry about who starts, but Beilein needs to play Grady, LLP, Manny, Novak, and Sims the majority of the minutes.  The 20 point win was the 10th of the season for Michigan, as many as they had for the entire season a year ago.  Remember: at one point Michigan was 5-17 last year; this season the Wolverines are 10-2.  19 games remain on the schedule, eighteen in conference play and one at UConn in February.

Why was the win not worth it?  Despite improving the win total to double digits, Michigan's RPI and SOS plummeted.  The Wolverines RPI is presently 37 and SOS is 89.  Prior to the NC Central game, Michigan had a RPI inside the top 20 and SOS in the top 40.  The NC Central game caused the two numbers to drop due to their own 0-14 record and RPI of 333 (out of 343 Division I teams).  While the strength of the Big Ten and UCLA's continued improvement should enable Michigan's SOS to improve overtime, this one game took a significant toll. There is no question the Wolverines would be better off today with 9 wins and a RPI of 17 than their current ranking.  With Michigan likely to be a NCAA tournament bubble team, their RPI and SOS will have a much greater emphasis than their ranking in the polls (#23 in AP this week). Furthermore, Michigan plays 3 games this week vs. NC Central, Wisconsin and Illinois. Why was there the need to play NC Central on Monday, just 36 hours before a very important and difficult game against Bo Ryan and the Badgers.  Add to that the chance of injury (DeShawn Sims nearly) and you have to question the scheduling of the NC Central game.

What If Scenario: If Michigan goes .500 in Big Ten play (9-9), which is easier said than done, along with a loss at #2 UConn, the Wolverines would be at 19-12.  Add one win and one loss in the Big Ten Conference Tournament and Michigan finishes the year at 20-13.  Assuming their RPI remains inside the top 40, Michigan plays well in their final 10 games, and adds 2 more high-profile wins (either Michigan State, Purdue, UConn, Minnesota, and/or Wisconsin), it is hard for me to imagine Michigan would be left out of the tournament. No other bubble team is going to have 2 non-conference wins (UCLA and Duke) as strong as Michigan.

Up Next: Big Ten opener vs Wisconsin- Wednesday at 2pm 

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