College hoops notes: UM women ‘not in danger’ of missing NCAAs
There hasn't been much good news for Michigan women's basketball lately.
So, here's some. Despite losing four of five games and plummeting in their projected NCAA Tournament seeding, the Wolverines still seem almost-certainly safe to make The Big Dance after being left out a year ago.
This, according to Charlie Creme, ESPN's women's basketball bracketologist.
“I don't suspect that they're in any danger of missing the Tournament,” Creme said. “But ask me what I make of them, the quick answer that comes to mind is, I don't know.”
Michigan was considering a top-16 team by the NCAA Selection Committee two weeks ago, which would've put the Wolverines in position to host opening-round games.
But since that reveal, the Wolverines have scuffled mightily, including a shocking loss at depleted Michigan State, which came less than three weeks after Michigan blew away the Spartans, 74-48.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Creme said of the struggles. “Frankly, I feel like it was kind of shocking.”
In his latest bracket, Creme has Michigan (20-8), down to No. 23 in both the Associated Press and coaches' top-25 rankings, as a No. 9 seed. This, after losses to Purdue, Rutgers, Michigan State and Minnesota this month.
Still, it's hard to imagine the Wolverines falling much further, with only one Big Ten game remaining, against Maryland next Friday, before the Big Ten tournament.
Only a blowout by Maryland and an ugly first-round loss could put Michigan on the so-called bubble, Creme said.
A late-season slump a year ago left the Wolverines out of the NCAA Tournament, and they responded with a spirited run to the WNIT championship. This year, it appears Michigan will make its first Tournament since 2012-13, Kim Barnes Arico's first year as coach.
In other women’s news, Central Michigan, despite suffering its first Mid-American Conference loss Wednesday night, to Buffalo, remains in contention for an at-large bid if it doesn't win the conference tournament, Creme said.
“The fact they have dominated up until last night, thoroughly dominated the league, and the way the rest of everything else is playing it, they wouldn't be safe, they'd be a team tempting fate by not winning the MAC tournament,” Creme said in a Thursday discussion with The News.
“But there's definitely a chance, I'd say a decent chance.”
Central Michigan (20-4, 12-1) hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2013, and doesn't have the strongest nonleague schedule. Still, it's RPI has snuck into the 30s, and other at-large contenders have even worse nonconference schedules than the Chippewas, Creme said.
As for Michigan State (15-12, 5-9), it was listed among the "next four out" on Creme's most-recent bracket, posted Monday, but that's changed, he said. Wednesday's loss to Nebraska probably did in the Spartans, who are slowly getting healthier — they played the Wolverines last month without any healthy guards — but it's too little, too late. It would take a stunning run to a Big Ten tournament championship to save the season at this point, Creme said.
“That ‘next four out’ is a lot more promising position to be in if you’re on the men's side,” Creme said. “Those injuries have been too much for them to overcome.
“There's been so much losing and so much struggle.”
This would be just the third time the Spartans missed the Tournament in coach Suzy Merchant's 11 years on the job.
This and that
■Is there a more surprising team in basketball right now that St. John's? Four games ago, it was 0-11 in the Big East. Now it's won four straight games — against then-No. 4 Duke, then-No. 1 Villanova, Marquette and, then, a Wednesday night thriller against DePaul. There's a familiar name on the St. John's roster — former Michigan State player Marvin Clark II, who scored 24 against DePaul. Clark, who played in the Final Four with the Spartans in 2015, is third on the Red Storm, averaging 11.7 points.
■Eastern Michigan senior guard Tim Bond is one of 16 “under-the-radar” players competing in a bracket-style contest to see which one emerges victorious and earns an invitation to the Slam Dunk Contest at the Final Four in San Antonio. His first-round matchup is against Wagner's Shack Scott. Fans can vote at darkhorsedunker.com.
■Last month, Kalamazoo Valley Community College cancelled the rest of its women's basketball season because it had so few healthy players. The plan is to resume play in 2018-19, and coach Talisha Bridges is actively recruiting players. If interested, contact Bridges at email@example.com.
■Both the Wayne State men's (13-8) and women's (16-6) teams have qualified for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament. Both tournaments start Feb. 28.
State power rankings
1. Michigan State, 25-3 (last week: 1)
2. Michigan, 21-7 (2)
3. Oakland, 16-11 (3)
4. Western Michigan, 15-11 (4)
5. Eastern Michigan, 15-11 (6)
6. Central Michigan, 16-10 (5)
7. Detroit Mercy, 7-20 (7)
1. Michigan, 20-8 (1)
2. Michigan State, 15-12 (2)
3. Central Michigan, 20-4 (3)
4. Western Michigan, 14-11 (4)
5. Oakland, 11-13 (5)
6. Eastern Michigan, 10-14 (6)
7. Detroit Mercy, 1-23 (7)
■Men's RPI rankings: Michigan State 15, Michigan 38, Oakland 158, WMU 159, EMU 171, CMU 176, Detroit Mercy 297.
■Men's KenPom rankings: Michigan State 6, Michigan 25, Oakland 160, WMU 170, CMU 185, EMU 187, Detroit Mercy 311.
■Men's Sagarin rankings: Michigan State 4, Michigan 18, Oakland 150, WMU 159, EMU 174, CMU 180, Detroit Mercy 325.
Player of the week
■Kevin McKay, Central Michigan, So., G: It's been a struggle for the Chippewas in Mid-American Conference play, but they kept hope alive for at least a .500 finish with a win over Northern Illinois on Tuesday — thanks to McKay, who came off the bench to score a career-high 33 on 14-for-20 shooting. McKay, a Warren De La Salle star, also had seven rebounds. “It’s going to be exciting the rest of the year to see what he can do,” coach Keno Davis said.
Freshman of the week
■Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State, F: The likely future NBA lottery pick has been a block machine this season, his first and perhaps only season in East Lansing. In Tuesday's dominating win over Minnesota, he poured it on offensively, scoring a career-best 27 on 10-of-14 shooting, and made a career-best five 3-pointers.
Stat of the week
■The Grand Valley women's team has a chance to make some history Thursday. It hosts Division II top-ranked team Ashland, which is on a 61-game winning streak. The Lakers (20-4), meanwhile, are 11-0 at home this season and boast one of the nation's top defensive teams. Six times, Grand Valley has held opponents to 41 points or fewer. Offensively, the Lakers are led by sophomore guard Jenn DeBoer, who averages 13.3 points.
Top games of the week
■Saturday: Men, Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan, 4:30
■Sunday: Men, Ohio State at Michigan, 1
■Monday: Women, Oakland at Detroit Mercy, 7
■Tuesday: Men, Central Michigan at Western Michigan, 7
■Thursday: Women, Maryland at Michigan, 6