This time of year is nerve-wracking for college basketball programs across the nation. It’s the stretch marked with uncertainty and anxiousness just before the NCAA Tournament Selection Show.
Regardless of their records, teams have made it this far. They’ve lasted through the ups and downs of the lengthy season, doing everything they can to stay on track. What comes next is out of their hands, as the selection committee will determine their fates. All teams can do is play the waiting game and hope that their resumes are good enough.
But there are a select few who look forward to this time of uncertainty. ESPN’s Charlie Creme is one of them. He embraces this confusion and takes pride in making projections of the tournament bids and seeding.
Creme’s bracket was updated Thursday morning. He projects the Michigan women’s basketball team (10-6 Big Ten, 22-9 overall) to be an eight seed and has it slated to face nine seed Oklahoma State (20-10) in Storrs, CT.
This should be reassuring for the Wolverines. Earlier this year, they looked like a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament — especially after conquering then-No. 8 Ohio State on the road. But it wasn’t smooth sailing from then on. Michigan came tumbling down a few games later against Purdue, as it wasted a 16-point fourth quarter lead and fell short in overtime.
One bad loss would have been fine, but the situation soon worsened for the Wolverines, as they lost three out of their following four contests. Their tournament hopes looked jeopardized.
In the last game of the regular season, though, Michigan did what it needed to do, upsetting then-No. 13 Maryland. The Wolverines then proceeded to dominate Penn State in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament before being eliminated afterwards by Nebraska.
“Michigan’s an interesting team for me,” Creme said in a conference call. “I think they’re in. … That win over Maryland I think sealed the deal to kind of answer some questions that they were having with losing late in the season, and they beat a good team in Maryland.”
Creme’s predictions shouldn’t be taken as fact, though. He forecasted Michigan to be a 10 seed a year ago, and the Wolverines were shocked to find out the selection committee left them out of the tournament altogether.
“I think they’re safely in,” Creme said. “But then that said, last year, I thought they were a no-brainer to be in the tournament and the committee left them out. … I think the committee completely blew it on Michigan last year.
“In fact, someone asked me, ‘How many did you get wrong last year’ and I said, ‘Well, I didn’t get any wrong. The committee got something wrong,’ and Michigan was that team.”
Michigan ranks 38th in RPI, which is better than its 47th-place ranking a year ago. During Monday night’s Selection Show, the Wolverines will count on their strength of schedule and success against quality teams — such as the Buckeyes and Terrapins — to punch their ticket to the tournament. However, they finished sixth in the Big Ten and their end of season collapse resembles that of last year.
“Unfortunately, they look a lot like they did last year,” Creme said, “in terms of the season they put together, the kind of strength of schedule they had, how they finished the year — last year they kind of finished the season poorly too — so, that worries me just a touch. But when you start to measure them up against the other teams that would be in kind of that nine, ten range … Michigan to me still rates better than all of them.
“When you look at everything, to me Michigan’s the third-best team in that league and should be in the field safely, but I’d put an asterisk next to that because last year they also should have been in the field and ended up winning the WNIT instead.”
The Wolverines’ quality wins could make the difference during this year’s selection show. Michigan has three top-25 RPI wins this year that should finally help the team get a tournament bid.
If Creme’s predictions do come true, the Wolverines’ path in the tournament will have road blocks, to say the least. If Michigan makes it to the second round, according to his bracket, it would most likely face No. 1 Connecticut (30-0), the widely-known women’s basketball powerhouse.
“They’re not winning that game,” Creme proclaimed. “So, best case scenario I think for Michigan in the tournament is win a game, enjoy that and then get ready for next year.”