Michigan comfortably fended off a win-hungry Indiana team on the NCAA Tournament bubble on Saturday to improve to 18-1 on the season and 13-1 in Big Ten play.
With just three regular-season games remaining and two weeks until Selection Sunday, the Wolverines, ranked third in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll, have all but locked up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Even if coach Juwan Howard’s team were to lose, Michigan is far ahead of the teams chasing No. 2 seeds.
Michigan’s tournament résumé includes a NET score of 3 and top 30 strength of schedule to go with seven Quadrant 1 victories. While Gonzaga hasn’t lost and is the clear-cut favorite to be the top seed on Selection Sunday after Baylor’s loss to Kansas, Michigan now is inching near the safety zone for a top seed, while projected No. 1 seed Ohio State and No. 2 seeds Villanova, Alabama, Illinois and West Virginia are likely too far behind to make it interesting.
Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (15-8, 7-7) snapped a three-game losing streak by dispatching Texas, 68-59. Texas Tech’s defense was back on track in this one, and a balanced offensive effort (five players in double figures) helped, too. Texas started the day as a No. 4 seed in the projected NCAA Tournament field, and Texas Tech a No. 5 seed. After Saturday’s Big 12 clash, now those seeds can swap.
Oklahoma State. Cade Cunningham’s 40 points helped propel the Cowboys (16-6, 9-6) to a thrilling overtime victory over Oklahoma, 94-90. Oklahoma State has surged late in the season, vaulting up to a No. 5 seed in the most recent bracketology. Cunningham’s clutch play makes this team scary good heading into March.
Michigan. The Wolverines’ 73-57 win over Indiana was fueled by 21 points from Franz Wagner. The 6-9 shooting guard is coming into his own and gives Michigan even more offense to pair alongside veteran Isaiah Livers and freshman standout Hunter Dickinson.
Kansas. Its upset of Baylor, along with other teams’ stumbles, could put the No. 19 Jayhawks in the mix to secure a No. 3 seed. That seemed unlikely earlier this month, when Kansas had lost five of seven.
Illinois. The Fighting Illini (18-6, 14-4) bounced back from an upset loss earlier this week to Michigan State by holding off Wisconsin, 74-69. Illinois, ranked No. 4 in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll, has a slight shot at attaining a No. 1 seed but has a strong case to settle for a No. 2 seed. Beating the Badgers nearly solidifies that top-2 seed. The Illini are one of the best rebounding teams in the country (ranking fifth nationally), and that’s largely because of big man Kofi Cockburn, who nearly broke the rim on a monstrous dunk Saturday.
Alabama. The Crimson Tide clinched the SEC regular-season title for the first time since 2002 with a win against Mississippi State. As the top seed for the SEC Tournament, they’ll get a double bye.
Clemson. The Tigers (15-5, 9-5) entered the day as a projected No. 7 seed and needed to avoided a loss to solidify their inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, and that was accomplished by fending off Miami (Florida), 66-58. Avoiding losses to bottom-feeder opponents is essential at this point in the season.
BRACKETOLOGY: Big 12 could have five teams in top-4 seeding
Tennessee. The Volunteers (16-7, 9-7) fell to a mediocre SEC team in Auburn, 77-72, and that’s three of the past four they’ve lost now. Tennessee had slipped to a No. 6 seed in the latest bracket and Saturday’s outcome won’t help in building back up to a better seed.
Florida State. The Seminoles vaulted to the top of the ACC standings but didn’t look the part of the best team in the league Saturday, losing to North Carolina, 78-70. FSU was well positioned to notch a No. 3 seed, but now they might drift closer to a No. 4 seed. Luckily for Florida State, another projected No. 3 seed, Oklahoma, lost.
Texas. The Longhorns (14-7, 8-6) were coming off a big win over Kansas but couldn’t ride that momentum against a win-hungry Texas Tech team. The Big 12 slate has positioned Texas for a top-five seed but the difference between a No. 3 or No. 5 seed will be determined in the last several games.
Baylor: Even with the loss to Kansas, Baylor isn’t expected to be denied a No. 1 seed. That could change, though, if the remaining games don’t go well.
LSU. The Tigers (14-8, 9-6) weren’t close to the NCAA Tournament bubble a week ago but back-to-back losses to Georgia and now Arkansas puts LSU in the dangerous No. 9 or No. 10 seed range. In Saturday’s 83-75 loss to the Razorbacks, LSU’s defense was suspect throughout. Offense isn’t an issue for this team, but the Tigers rank 279th in the nation in scoring defense.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson