Michigan's Bubble Hopes; Work Left To Do

Jeff StineCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2009

At 18-12, the Michigan Wolverines are one of many teams currently sitting squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.  There is much speculation as to what needs to occur to get to the right side of that bubble.

In my opinion, Michigan is going to need to get to 21 wins to comfortably make the dance. Beating Minnesota on the road in their final game this week would be a great start as it would not only be another quality win (their RPI is currently 39), but it would also improve on one of Michigan's ugliest statistics....their road record, which currently stands at 2-8.

Even with the win, Michigan will likely be seeded seventh in the Big Ten Tournament as it's unlikely Penn State loses two more (Wisconsin and OSU both hold tiebreakers over Michigan due to their season sweeps over the Wolverines).  Unfortunately, that means they would play their Big Ten Tournament opener against Iowa and I don't see that victory being enough to get Michigan over the hump as Iowa currently carries an RPI of 112.

If Michigan beats Minnesota and Iowa, they'll have to play the two seed which will either be Purdue or Illinois. Michigan split with both of these teams in the regular season, so a victory over either would give them a season series win and would likely be enough to get them dancing.

I know the pundits don't like to point to a specific game as the final determiner of a team's credentials, but the loss at Iowa was a killer for Michigan. Win that game and a first round Big Ten Tournament is likely all they would have needed.

Obviously all of the above should include the usual disclaimer that Michigan's fate rests not only with what they do to close out the season, but what other bubble residents do as well as what happens in Mid-Major conference tournaments.

Michigan has made great strides this year in building upon last year's record 22 loss season. It remains to be seen whether that improvement will be enough to gain that coveted bid on Selection Sunday.