The NCAA Tournament Selection show passed last night without Michigan’s name being called.
For the ninth consecutive season, the Wolverines will watch other teams play in the big games they can only dream about, as they continue to share a dubious distinction of being one of just two Big Ten teams that have yet to take part in college basketball’s biggest stage since 1998 (Northwestern is the other).
The news came as no surprise. Entering the Big Ten Tournament last Thursday, most experts assumed the Wolverines had to beat Minnesota and then No. 1 Ohio State just to re-enter the bubble discussion. The Wolverines might have still needed to beat Purdue to seal their bid, but any talk of the Tournament was quickly squashed in a 72-62 loss to the Buckeyes on Friday. Michigan coach Tommy Amaker was vague about his team’s Tournament chances following the loss.
“I’m not trying to make a case,” said Amaker, who has yet to guide Michigan to the Tournament in six seasons. “I don’t know what case to make. We’ve got 21 wins, we’re .500 in our conference. I think if you asked anyone else if that was a pretty darn good year, I think that is.”
While Michigan did win 21 games and finished 8-8 in the Big Ten, it is also true that 13 of those victories came against teams ranked lower than 150 in the RPI. Michigan’s conference record also left them behind six other Big Ten teams.
The Wolverines also won just one game against a ranked opponent, defeating an Indiana squad which has since fallen out of the rankings. Unlike last year, when the Wolverines stumbled down the stretch but still felt they had accomplished enough during the season to deserve a spot in the field of 65, there was no drama yesterday.
“We determined our own future,” sophomore Jerret Smith said. “It’s not like the NCAA
Tournament Selection Committee controlled it.”
Instead, the Wolverines will take another crack at the National Invitational Tournament, sarcastically referred to as the Amaker Invitational by some local columnists, given Michigan’s recent shortcomings. Amaker led Michigan to an NIT championship in 2004, and took the Wolverines to the finals last year.
This season’s road to Madison Square Garden starts out Tuesday night at Crisler Arena against Utah State.