Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gotta Beat the Badgers to Get to March Madness

Like many Michigan basketball fans, I have begun to shuffle through different scenarios in my head regarding potential ways that the Michigan Wolverines can make it to March Madness. Before I get going, here's Michigan's remaining schedule for reference:

CURRENT RECORD: 16-10 (6-7 conf.)

02/16 (Tonight) @ Illiniois
02/19 @ Iowa
02/23 #10 Wisconsin
02/26 @ Minnesota
03/05 Michigan State

In the Big Ten, Michigan is currently ranked 6th.

Now, down to the nitty gritty:

Now, I'm not Joe Lunardi, but I do know a few things about how teams generally qualify for the the NCAA tournament. These things are:
- 20 wins is generally a must.
-Winning your conference tournament gets you an automatic bid.
-Strength of schedule helps.
-You need marquee wins.
- Joe Lunardi, the real guy for ESPN, is basically never wrong when it comes to predicting brackets.
- Joe Lunardi does not think that Michigan is currently a March Madness team.

This all taken into consideration, you will see that below I have plowed through a few realistic scenarios that could decide the season. In regards of Big Ten Tourney play, I have made the (dangerous) assumption that Michigan will win the games in which it will be the higher seed:

Scenario 1: Michigan wins the games that it will be favored in.
This means victories at Iowa and at home against Michigan State. It also means that Michigan will win one game in the Big Ten tournament, where they will likely face one of the two worst teams in the Big Ten.
Result: 19-14 OUT of March Madness

Scenario 2: Michigan wins every game except for the Wisconsin game.
While the idea of Michigan winning every game against non-ranked teams looks good on paper, when you dive into the numbers, the outcome is not as favorable as one would think. If Michigan won every game except for the Wisconsin game, they would be flirting with danger by not getting a marquee win and by capturing a seed in the Big Ten Tournament that would force them into a bye in the first round of the tournament, and then pit them against a 4-6 seed in the second round. A one and done in the Big Ten Tournament, therefore, would be very likely.
Result: 21-12 IN/OUT (With no marquee wins it depends on who they beat in the second round of the tourney... this is dicey) or 20-12 OUT

Scenario 3: Michigan beats the Badgers and wins two other games.
if Michigan beats the Badgers their tournament resume is greatly improved. By beating Wisconsin and 2 other teams (preferably Illinois, MSU, or Minnesota), Michigan would improve its record to 19-12 entering the Big Ten Tournament. Once again, Michigan would likely get a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tourney and would run into a 4-6 seed.
Result: 20-13 IN (good strength of schedule & Marquee win) or 19-13 OUT

Scenario 4: Michigan beats 2 0f MSU, ILLINOIS, MINNESOTA and beats Iowa.
If Michigan wins three out of their next five games, but does not beat Wisconsin, it will put them in a very tough spot. The Wolverines will improve their record to 19-12, but they will probably capture a 5 or 6 seed in the BTT, which, once again, will give them a bye and force them to play a tough 3 or 4 seed in round 2.
Result: 20-13 OUT (Unless their win in the tournament is against #3 seed likely to be Wisconsin) or 19-13 OUT

Since I realize the above scenarios are chaotic, let me summarize what they mean:
- If Michigan beats the Wisconsin Badgers in the regular season they greatly improve their chances of making the tournament, and could keep their tournament hopes alive by only winning 2 other games in the regular season.
- If Michigan does not beat the Wisconsin Badgers (but beats every other team) in the regular season they will put themselves in a position where they have 20 wins, but no marquee wins. In the second round of the tournament (after a first round bye), they may get a shot at a marquee win, but the standings indicate that it will probably be against Wisconsin.
- Michigan can put themselves in a really crappy scenario by getting a 5 or 6 seed in the tournament by beating 3 teams not named Wisconsin. Not only would the Wolverines only have 19 wins going into the tournament, but they would once again score a first round bye in the BTT, and, if they were extremely lucky, would get a crack at the 3 seed (probably Wisconsin). A 20th victory against a team like current 4 seed Illinois really wouldn't do the trick for getting Michigan in the big dance.

The wild card in all of this is the performance of the #11 Purdue Boilermakers. Michigan does not play Purdue, but there is a distinct possibility that if Michigan wins 3 or more regular season games from here on out , they will play, and have to beat, the Boilermakers in their first game (in the second round) of the BT tournament. Unless, of course, Michigan beats Wisconsin on February 23...


Andy G said...

Anyone who thinks this team can make the tournament should have their WCBN sports director title revoked. BRING ON TYLER, CEO WCBN SPORTS.

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