Make Your Case: Michigan WolverinesPosted by jstevrtc on March 13th, 2011
Around this time of year we like to yield the soapbox to representatives of bubble teams and give them the opportunity to explain to the hooping nation why their team should be granted admission into the NCAA Tournament. We encourage them to be as irrational and nonpartisan as they want. As always, feel free to tell us how you think they did in the comments section. If you’d like to make the case for your school, send us an e-mail at JStevRTC@gmail.com and we’ll hear your preliminary arguments.
Joe Stapleton of The Michigan Daily now makes the case for the Michigan Wolverines.
So, this is an interesting place we Wolverines find ourselves. In January, Michigan lost to Minnesota at home — badly — after dropping two ugly road losses in a row against Indiana and Northwestern. It appeared the team was dead in the water. It seemed this season would go how the majority of Wolverine nation thought it would from the beginning, given the team’s youth and inexperience: not very well. The idea that they would win their next game — Michigan State in East Lansing — was laughable.
Then they did it. They downed the Spartans and absolutely took off. After beating Michigan State at the Breslin Center, the Wolverines won eight of their last 11 games (their only losses being at Ohio State, at Illinois and Wisconsin at home) to enter the Big Ten Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the field.
And as it stands now, the Big Ten Tournament appears to offer them a golden chance to make the NCAA Tournament field of 68. After poring over projections from Crashing the Dance, Bracketology 101, Joe Lunardi and all the rest, it appears there is a consensus: if Michigan would have lost its first-round game to Illinois, it still would have been 50-50 (bordering on unlikely) that the Wolverines made the Tournament. If they beat the Illini, they’re in. They beat the Illini.
But since I’m supposed to make their case for inclusion in the field of 68, not project their chances, allow me to direct you not to their quality wins (there aren’t really that many, and they aren’t of particularly high quality: Harvard at home and a sweep of Michigan State) but to their quality losses.
Early in the season, Michigan almost upset Syracuse in the Legends Classic (lost 53-50). Later, the Wolverines forced overtime against then-No. 3 Kansas at home (lost 67-60). One game later, Michigan gave then-No. 2 Ohio State all it could handle (lost 68-64).
That alone is pretty incredible. But given Michigan’s youth (the team doesn’t boast one senior) and inexperience (Darius Morris, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass are the only Wolverines who received significant playing time last season), it’s understandable Michigan would lose close games early in the year. At the same time, the Wolverines’ youth is also one of the reasons those losses are so impressive.
But they’re still losses, of course. Which means Michigan kept losing out on opportunities for a Signature Win, like the ones they got in 2009 against UCLA and Duke early in the season.
Then, three games ago, in Crisler Arena, Michigan looked like it was going to finally punch its ticket. For 39 minutes and 57.7 seconds, Michigan had defeated then-No. 12 Wisconsin. It was going to be a great moment: finally nabbing its Signature Win at home against a top-25 team with just two games left in the regular season.
Then this happened:
Those are some big-time signature losses! If losses can be impressive, those are.
But the Wolverines have some impressive wins, too. Michigan may not have many “quality” (top-50) wins, but they have eight top-75 wins, four of them coming on the road. And the fact that, in the midst of all those heartbreakers, the Wolverines were able to stand up and dust themselves off each time and go beat good Big Ten teams (Penn State on the road, Michigan State twice, Iowa on the road, Minnesota on the road) all season has to count for something. Even after the Wisconsin game, Michigan went to Minneapolis and beat Minnesota, then took down Michigan State at home to end the season.
Michigan is dying to upset a high-profile team. They’ve barely missed on all their chances. All they need from the selection committee is one more.