Monday, February 25, 2019

Bracketology (Feb. 25, 2019)

While the Bomb Cyclone hit the midwest on Sunday, Cassius Winston and shorthanded Michigan State hit Michigan in the mouth at Crisler Center. In one of the grittiest efforts I've seen in a while, the then-No. 10 Spartans beat the then-No. 7 Wolverines 77-70.

It was a game that neither team played its best, but MSU had a season-low six turnovers while Winston's game-high eight assists were more than the entire Michigan team (six).

It was an odd game in many respects. Michigan was outrebounding MSU most of the game (MSU won the battle in the end 33-31) and the Wolverines shot 85% (17-20) from the free throw line, well above their 68% season average. Both teams were a combined 0-for-19 in the second half from 3-point range until Jordan Poole hit a pair of "Are-you-kidding-me" triples to give Spartan fans heart palpations in the final 60 seconds.

In all, MSU's 77 points were the second most that Michigan had surrendered all season (78 to South Carolina in December); the Spartans' 1.20 PPP was the most put up against the Wolverines' defense this year. (MSU scored 77 points in 62 possessions while South Carolina's 78 points came in 71 possessions).

The victory seems to solidify the Spartans on the No. 2 line. If things go right for the Spartans (read: MSU wins out, likely meaning an unshared Big Ten Championship and the Big Ten Tournament Championship), MSU would have a mighty case for a No. 1 seed. Otherwise, a spot on the No. 2 line seems like a pretty sure lock barring some nutty loss to Indiana on Saturday.

Michigan, on the other hand, is an intriguing case. The Wolverines have been perched on the No. 2 line for a while, but other teams continue to win the Michigan continues to chalk up a loss here and there. Also worth noting, the some of the wins that looked so good earlier in the season (at Villanova being the most pertinent) have lost plenty of luster.

Could Michigan be on the No. 3 line, 30 years after another No. 3 seeded Michigan team won the title? Well, that's where we have the Wolverines this week as Houston sneaks up to the No. 2 line.

Last Four Byes: Temple, Murray State, NC State, Arizona State
Last Four In: Seton Hall, Alabama, Lipscomb, UCF
First Four Out: Clemson, Utah State, Furman, Georgetown
Next Four Out: Nebraska, Toledo, Creighton, Xavier

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