Update, 2:00 p.m. Sunday: ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects the Wolverines as an 11-seed, facing off against San Diego State — led by former Michigan coach Steve Fisher — in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday or Wednesday. In the projection, a First Four win would take Michigan to Denver, where it would face 6-seed Baylor on Thursday or Friday. Lunardi lists the Wolverines as one of his last four teams in the tournament.
CBS Jerry Palm’s projection has Michigan in the field 68 a little more comfortably. In his mock bracket, the Wolverines play Dayton in a first-round matchup in Providence, R.I., on Thursday or Friday, allowing them to skirt a trip to the First Four entirely. Palm does not list Michigan among his last four teams in.
Original story, Saturday:
INDIANAPOLIS —The Michigan men’s basketball team’s next game might be in Dayton. Or it might be in St. Louis. Or it might even be in Ann Arbor.
For the first time in years, the Wolverines have no idea. Unlike years past, they haven’t locked up a bid and started to play for seeding, nor have they played themselves out of the running.
Michigan (10-8 Big Ten, 22-12 overall) finished eighth in the Big Ten and was out of the NCAA Tournament field heading into the tournament this weekend, according to most experts. But the Wolverines upended No. 9 seed Northwestern in overtime on Thursday and stunned conference champion Indiana on Friday, and suddenly their status is back up in the air.
Michigan ran out of gas Saturday in a 76-59 loss to No. 13 Purdue in the semifinals, coming up well short in its chance to lock up a tournament bid for good. Now all the Wolverines can do is wait.
The general expert consensus surrounding Michigan heading into the Big Ten Tournament seemed to be that the Wolverines needed two wins to get in, and that’s exactly what they got. But now the experts are divided — before Saturday’s semifinal, ESPN bracketology guru Joe Lunardi had Michigan in his “first four out,” while CBS’s Jerry Palm had the team in his “last four in.”
The Wolverines will gather to watch Sunday’s selection show in their video room at Crisler Center’s Player Development Center, knowing that their work is done but their future is far from certain. Michigan’s résumé is clear: four top-50 RPI wins, 10 conference wins and no real “bad” losses (its only one outside the RPI top 50 came on the road against Ohio State).
Only time will tell whether that will be enough to emerge from a bubble crowded with middling major conference teams like Cincinnati, Connecticut and Syracuse as well as strong mid-majors like Monmouth, St. Mary’s and Valparaiso.
If they do get in, the Wolverines could very well be headed to Dayton for a play-in game as part of the tournament’s “First Four.” With a win in Dayton or a higher seed selection, Michigan would travel to one of eight regional host sites (Brooklyn, N.Y.; Providence, R.I.; Raleigh, N.C.; St. Louis; Des Moines, Iowa; Oklahoma City; Denver; or Spokane, Wash.) next weekend. If they miss the tournament and accept a bid to the NIT, the Wolverines should be a top seed and host multiple home games at Crisler Center.