INDIANAPOLIS — Will Michigan make the NCAA tournament's field of 68?
We don't have too much longer to wait until we find out. The selection committee will announce the bracket Sunday evening following the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
And while the Wolverines won't be playing for a conference tournament championship, many believe they did enough during their three-day stay in Indy — most notably knocking off top-seeded Indiana on Friday — to wind up on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble.
One of those who thinks Michigan will hear its name appear on a bracket line Sunday night? Why, it's Wolverines head coach John Beilein, who did a little lobbying on his team's behalf after it was eliminated from the conference tournament by Purdue on Saturday afternoon.
"If you look at our schedule, virtually all our top games, there was a huge number of top-25 teams that we played, a huge number of them. And it's not top 50. It's top 25. Not all year long, but might be a half our games might have been (against) top-25 teams," Beilein said. "We're not a top-25 team. But we won enough to show that if we played the teams in the 50s through 100s more, if we played more of the teams at the back end of the 25 that were 40, 45, 50, whatever they are, we can beat those teams. We just didn't get to play them because the Big Ten had some teams that were down a little bit. If we're in, we'll get in because the committee understands that we battled the adversity. We won 22 games. We won on the road. We beat four top-25 teams, that we're a good team."
Beilein knows his team is on the bubble, and he probably knew coming into this week's tournament that his team needed to do something impressive to get into the NCAA field. Michigan did that, scoring a huge upset win over Indiana in the quarterfinals, making all the highlight shows with Kam Chatman's game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Hoosiers were ranked in the top 10 this week, giving the Wolverines their second win over a top-10 team and their third win over a ranked team this season.
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And Beilein is right in suggesting that the committee should pay attention to Michigan's tough schedule. The games it lost came mostly against high-quality competition. Xavier, Connecticut and SMU were the non-conference losses, and while the Wolverines lost eight times during conference play — nine if you include Friday's loss to Purdue — all but two came against ranked teams.
But Beilein's main argument came in the form of the hurdles his team has had to clear this season. Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert pretty much missed the entire season. Derrick Walton Jr. missed time. Those are three huge contributors — LeVert being the team's best player — to be without for any amount of time let alone the massive amount of games missed by those Wolverines.
"Our kids battled all year long," Beilein said. "There was all these adjustments all year long that I think the team that we saw in the last — and really for much of this game (against Purdue) — but the team that we saw in a lot of the games that we've won is the team. But we were always making adjustments.
"We're a good team right now. They've got to compare that to the other bubble teams. And did they battle the same adversity? Did they do that all year long? Who knows?"
Beilein said he didn't think Michigan's brand name will be the reason his team makes the tournament, and he's right.
But certainly it would be fun to see the Wolverines make the tourney. As it showed against Indiana, Michigan could be a dangerous team for any opponent, and the Wolverines have a recent history of long tournament runs, finishing national runners up in 2013 and coming within a basket of reaching back-to-back Final Fours in 2014.
It seems like the win over Indiana was enough of a statement to get Michigan in. Now we play the waiting game.