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March 9, 2014

Michigan NCAA seeding looking better and better

Michigan captured the Big Ten title by three games over Michigan State and Wisconsin after both teams finished 12-6 in the conference with Sunday losses. The Badgers' loss at Nebraska should move the Wolverines past them in positioning for seeding, while Virginia's loss to Maryland Sunday also helped.

The Wolverines (23-7) were No. 12 nationally heading into weekend play, but several teams ranked ahead of them lost. In addition to Wisconsin's 77-68 loss at Nebraska and the No. 5 Cavaliers' setback at Maryland:

  • No. 8 Kansas (23-8) fell to a 17-14 West Virginia team.

  • No. 7 Syracuse (27-4) lost 67-62 at home to Georgia Tech earlier in the week.

  • No. 4 Duke (24-7) lost by 10 at Wake Forest March 5.

    It's feasible the Wolverines will move past each of these teams in the next poll to No. 7 or 8. Florida and Wichita State seem locks to receive No. 1 seeds, and probably Arizona, but it's not completely out of the question that Michigan - with some breaks - could enter consideration for a one seed with a long run in the Big Ten Tournament.

    It starts Friday for U-M, which will face the winner of Thursday's game between Indiana and Illinois at noon. Purdue and Ohio State play Thursday for the right to face No. 4 seed Nebraska, so the Wolverines' run to the tournament final will run through either the Hoosiers or Illini and one of the other three.

    Michigan earned a tough split with IU and trounced Illinois this year, swept Nebraska (and was the only team to win in Lincoln), beat Ohio State by 10 on the road and swept Purdue, coming back from 19 down to win in West Lafayette.

    The other half of the bracket, meanwhile, will be tough. Iowa will play Northwestern for the right to play Michigan State and will be a favorite, which could set up an interesting quarterfinal. Wisconsin will be heavily favored to beat either Minnesota or Penn State, so the semifinal should also be fun to watch.

    Nationally, Michigan fans should root against Duke, Virginia, Villanova, Kansas and Syracuse in their conference tournaments. Should the Wolverines capture a Big Ten Tournament title in addition to a regular season crown it won by three games - and should other pieces fall into place - a one seed isn't out of the question. Lose in the conference quarterfinals, and a three also seems to be in play.

    Regardless, the only sweating on Selection Sunday will be which weather to pack for.


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