ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The idea of an NCAA tournament berth has become an elephant in the room of sorts for the Michigan basketball team.
Prior to Sunday’s game at Indiana, none of the Wolverines openly discussed their postseason chances with the media.
But Sunday’s 75-63 win over the Hoosiers, coupled with the tournament committee’s first reveal of the top 16 teams — if the season had ended Saturday — shed some light on how Michigan can steer its fate in the final three weeks of the regular season.
The bottom line? Win games.
“Consistency pretty much makes champions,” Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. told reporters prior to Sunday’s game against Indiana. “Going forward, that’s exactly what we’re preaching and what we’re trying to get.”
But where does Michigan stack up in that pursuit?
Michigan has six games left in the regular season, including two at home against ranked opponents: Thursday against No. 7 Wisconsin and Feb. 25 against No. 16 Purdue. Regular-season wins against ranked opponents would carry more weight, before the Big Ten tournament begins March 8.
Michigan also must win on the road. Prior to its first road win Sunday, Michigan was 0-6, and four of the Wolverines’ final six games are on the road.
Michigan’s final six games
|Feb. 19||at Minnesota|
|Feb. 22||at Rutgers|
|March 1||at Northwestern|
|March 5||at Nebraska|
Where Michigan stands
Michigan is a 10 seed in the East region in Monday’s USA Today mock bracket, while CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm released his latest mock bracket Saturday and has Michigan as a 10 seed in the East region, but classifies Michigan as a bubble team.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Michigan as an 11 seed in the South region in his most recent Bracketology, released Monday.
KenPom.com ranks Michigan at No. 31 as of Sunday night — Ken Pomeroy’s rankings are a measure of efficiency, as opposed to simply wins and losses. Michigan is the fourth-best Big Ten team in the KenPom rankings, behind Purdue (No. 10), Wisconsin (No. 14) and Northwestern (No. 30).
What could hold Michigan back
Some critics say what could hurt the Big Ten’s chances on Selection Sunday is the conference’s level of parity — and not necessarily the good kind.
That was illustrated Saturday, when the NCAA tournament selection committee revealed its top 16 teams — and none of those were Big Ten teams.
— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) February 11, 2017
Michigan coach John Beilein, however, is optimistic about the Big Ten’s tournament chances.
“I don’t pay enough attention to the other teams, but I think the Big Ten will end up doing its work in the NCAA tournament,” Beilein told reporters Sunday in Bloomington. “Everybody thought this league was down this year. It’s not down. It’s just stronger, top to bottom. Teams like the Marylands and Wisconsins, and Purdue … those type of teams can go a long way in the NCAA tournament, so we’ll answer that question in March.”