As Michigan continues to round into form, so does its NCAA Tournament resume.
Now, an intriguing final week of the regular season lies ahead with road matchups against Penn State and Maryland, two teams desperately trying to claw into the postseason conversation — and two more chances to pick up another quality win.
“Definitely we’re going to use this as momentum,” sophomore guard Zavier Simpson said following the win over Ohio State. “We beat a good team, but we’ll have to get back to the drawing board, take it game by game and come ready to play because you never know what the ending can be.”
The win over rival Ohio State was a boon for Michigan, not just because it avenged its loss earlier this season, but because it gave the Wolverines another important Quadrant 1 win.
Under a new quadrant system for categorizing contests, the NCAA Tournament selection committee is placing a greater emphasis on where games are played. It deviates from the past guidelines that broke games down into top 50, top 100, top 200 and such categories based strictly on the opponent’s RPI — a metric used to rank teams based on their wins, losses and strength of schedule — regardless of whether it was a home, road or neutral game.
But now, quality wins have been redefined because every game isn’t being treated the same, no matter where it’s played. Winning on the road and at neutral sites carry more weight.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the four quadrants:
■Quadrant 1: Home games vs. RPI 1-30, neutral games vs. RPI 1-50, road games vs. RPI 1-75
■Quadrant 2: Home games vs. RPI 31-75, neutral games vs. RPI 51-100, road games vs. RPI 76-135
■Quadrant 3: Home games vs. RPI 76-160, neutral games vs. RPI 101-200, road games vs. RPI 136-240
■Quadrant 4: Home games vs. RPI 161-351, neutral games vs. RPI 201-351, road games vs. RPI 241-351
So far this season, the Wolverines are 3-5 in Quadrant 1 games and have no Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 4 losses.
The selection committee also will use rankings in results-based metrics, predictive metrics, RPI and strength of schedule on team sheets when it comes to making a final decision on who gets in and determining seeding.
As of Monday, Michigan jumped to No. 28 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings, rose to No. 17 in the Associated Press top 25 poll, and was projected as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and a No. 7 seed by CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm.
With one week to go before the Big Ten tournament, the Wolverines can continue their ascent in the rankings and solidify their March resume with two possible Quadrant 1 games at Penn State and Maryland. The Nittany Lions are ranked just outside the top 75 in RPI at No. 76, while the Terrapins are rated No. 67 and would need to avoid sliding out.
“I do think that we’re playing the right way at the right time. But at the same time, there’s a long way to go in all of that,” Michigan coach John Beilein said Sunday. “These two road games are going to be really difficult. Sometimes it’s not who you play, but when you’re playing them on the schedule, and where you’re playing them.
“I do believe in that philosophy that when you play so many games there are some road blocks that you probably can’t perform out of or coach out of. At the same time, I think it’s important we don’t have bad losses, that we have four or five road wins, and I think it’s very important that you beat another good team, home or away.”
Here is a complete breakdown of Michigan’s resume under the quadrant system entering the final week of the regular season:
Home against RPI 1-30, neutral against RPI 1-50, road against RPI 1-75
Wins: at Michigan State (14), vs. Ohio State (20), at Texas (52)
Losses: at North Carolina (5), vs./at Purdue (12), at Ohio State (20), at Nebraska (60)
Remaining games: at Maryland (67)
Home against 31-75, neutral against 51-100, road against 76-135
Wins: vs. UCLA (48), vs. Maryland (67), at Wisconsin (134)
Losses: neutral vs. LSU (75), at Northwestern (116)
Remaining games: at Penn State (76)
Home against 76-160, neutral against 101-200, road against 136-240
Wins: vs. Indiana (101), vs. Northwestern (116), neutral vs. VCU (136), vs. Minnesota (140), at/vs. Iowa (157)
Home against 161-351, neutral against 201-351, road against 241-351
Record: 9-0 (doesn’t include neutral win against Division II Chaminade)
Wins: vs. Illinois (180), vs. Central Michigan (187), vs. Rutgers (208), vs. Southern Mississippi (219), vs. North Florida (221), vs. Detroit Mercy (286), vs. Jacksonville (293), vs. UC-Riverside (308), vs. Alabama A&M (351)