Michigan basketball is likely locked in as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While the Wolverines are the Big Ten Tournament champions, it’s almost impossible for them to move up any further than they already have.
Here are three reasons why:
1. Michigan’s done, while other teams are still playing
The Big Ten Tournament was played a week early this year, so Michigan and the rest of the conference’s NCAA Tournament hopefuls are practicing while most power conferences are holding their tournaments this week.
This might not matter much, but it rubs away any shot Michigan had at dominating headlines at exactly the right time.
“I don’t think they’re going to get better than a 3,” ESPN’s Joe Lunardi said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “I think it’s more likely that, if I’m off it’ll be in the other direction. We kinda saw the same scenario with them last year, right? They made an incredible run and then they started even further back in the pack. I would like to see them as a 3. I think they’re really dangerous. I’m not sure the extra week is going to impact the evaluation at all.”
2. Every team above them will have an argument to be there
The tournament selection committee sorts wins into “quadrants” for easy measuring at the end of the season. Quadrant 1 wins are the gold standard for the committee, and Michigan State, Purdue, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Auburn, Duke, Villanova, Virginia and Xavier all have reasons to be selected above Michigan.
The Wolverines were 6-4 in Quadrant 1 games, but had a Quadrant 2 loss (at Nebraska) and a Quadrant 3 loss (at Northwestern) that the committee can use to justify placing them below these teams:
- Michigan State: 3-4 in Q1 games, but 26-0 in all other games
- Duke: 6-4 in Q1, 19-2 in all other games
- Cincinnati: 5-1 in Q1, 22-3 in all other games
- Kansas: 10-3 in Q1, 14-4 in all other games
- North Carolina: 11-7 in Q1, 12-2 in all other games
- Auburn: 7-4 in Q1, 18-2 in all other games
- Purdue: 6-4 in Q1, (2-1 record vs. Michigan), 22-2 in all other games
- Virginia: 9-1 in Q1, 19-1 in all other games
- Villanova: 8-3 in Q1, 19-1 in all other games
- Xavier: 6-3 in Q1, 21-1 in all other games
3. Michigan’s late-season run came just a little too late
Michigan enters the tournament on a 13-0 run. Coach John Beilein’s defense is playing at an unbelievable level. Some people, including those who get paid to write about college basketball, think Michigan could be a Final Four team.
If the Michigan team that blew out Nebraska, beat Michigan State and handled Purdue to win the Big Ten Tournament were the same team that played all season, the Wolverines probably would be a shoo-in for a No. 2 seed. But Michigan didn’t dominate in the win-loss column the way Michigan State did in the regular season, so regular-season losses to Northwestern and Nebraska likely are enough to keep the Wolverines on the 3-line in the eyes of the selection committee.