WASHINGTON — For a team whose plane couldn’t get off the ground earlier in the week, the Michigan Wolverines haven’t stopped flying.
After notching a berth in the Big Ten tourney championship game and picking up the program’s fifth RPI top-50 win, just how high could coach John Beilein’s squad climb on the NCAA Tournament bracket that’s coming Sunday?
“A 6,” longtime CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm told Land of 10 Saturday after the Wolverines topped the Golden Gophers, 84-77, in the first Big Ten tourney semifinal at the Verizon Center. “They are a bottom-of-the-top-25 team if they win out.”
The Wolverines’ victory against Minnesota (RPI rank: 19) was their eighth in 10 contests and fourth in a row. Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. paced Michigan (23-11, RPI: 37) with 29 points, a 10-for-10 day from the free-throw line, and 9 assists.
‘Keep in mind that nobody controls their own destiny when it comes to seeding.’
— CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm
Beilein and his crew became a national story when the jet they’d chartered for Washington, D.C., suffered an aborted takeoff Wednesday outside of Ypsilanti, Mich., an incident that injured several Wolverines players.
The party eventually flew out early Thursday morning on another charter and made it to the Verizon Center a few hours before their scheduled second-round matchup with Illinois.
The eighth-seeded Wolverines came out in practice uniforms and stomped the Illini, 75-55, then on Friday upset No. 1 seed Purdue in overtime, 74-70. Michigan will meet Wisconsin (RPI: 35) in the title game Sunday afternoon.
As of Saturday morning, Palm projected the Wolverines as a 7 seed, just behind Miami, Fla. (21-11, RPI: 42), Virginia (22-10, RPI: 18), and Virginia Tech (22-10, RPI: 46). All three of those squads, though, have been eliminated from the ACC Tournament, while the Wolverines have one more chance to snatch a quality win.
“Keep in mind that nobody controls their own destiny when it comes to seeding,” Palm continued. “(It) always depends on what other teams do.”