With a 23-point win over Wisconsin on Jan. 12, Michigan was 11-0, third in the NET rankings, a 1-seed in Bracketology, and the first team in college basketball history to win three consecutive games against ranked opponents by at least 19 points. And the Wolverines had an opportunity to extend their ranked opponent's streak and earn another Quadrant 1 win with a visit to Minnesota four days later.
It was only an 18-point win … for Minnesota, though as ugly as the 75-57 loss was, it wasn’t a black eye on Michigan’s NCAA Tournament résumé. At the time, it was a Quadrant 1 loss to a NET-27 Gophers’ team 13 days removed from a blowout of Ohio State. It was a road loss to a projected 6-seed that could finish in the top five of the Big Ten.
Six weeks later, it’s a cringe-worthy black eye in Michigan’s quest for the No. 1 overall seed.
Michigan ranks in the top five in nearly every major metric, including No. 2 in the NET, No. 2 in KenPom, No. 3 in Sagarin, and No. 2 in SOR. They’re tied with Ohio State for the most Quadrant 1 wins, despite playing four fewer Quadrant 1 games than the Buckeyes and have zero losses outside Quadrant 1. They’re 6-1 on the road, rank in the top five of KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive ratings, and have several more metric-boosting games remaining, including against NET-5 Illinois on Tuesday night.
That’s not enough to sit ahead of Gonzaga, we believe. Seventeen days after the selection committee placed Gonzaga atop their midseason rankings, we assume that hasn’t changed. Michigan has presumably jumped then-No. 2 Baylor, as they have in several areas, including NET and KenPom, but still trails Gonzaga in most areas, including every area noted above except Quadrant 1 wins–Gonzaga is 7-0 in Quadrant 1 games.
Since Minnesota peaked at No. 25 in the NET Rankings four days after the Michigan win, they’ve imploded. The Gophers are 2-8 in their last 10 games and have fallen to No. 70. They’re no longer ranked inside, or anywhere near, the top 30 in most metrics, are 0-9 on the road and have played themselves off the bubble with losses to Northwestern and Nebraska. And if Minnesota’s implosion isn’t halted in the next 12 days, they’ll fall outside the top 75, crossing the line from a Quadrant 1 to Quadrant 2 loss for Michigan.
One Quadrant 2 loss won’t hurt Michigan’s case for a 1-seed. Five of the top 10 teams in the NET have at least one Quadrant 1 loss, including Illinois (one) and Ohio State (two). Gonzaga doesn’t. The Zags don’t have any losses, nor will they come Selection Sunday. And while a one-loss Michigan still has a path to the No. 1 overall seed over an undefeated Gonzaga, it’d be a clearer path without a loss to an NIT-bound Minnesota.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM