Michigan comfortably pushed back an Indiana team hungry for victories in the NCAA tournament bubble on Saturday to move to 18-1 in the season and 13-1 in the Big Ten game.
With just three regular-season games remaining and two weeks before the selection on Sunday, the Wolverines, ranked third in the Ferris Mowers coaching poll, have practically locked a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Even though coach Juwan Howard’s team lost, Michigan is far ahead of the teams chasing the No.2 seed.
The Michigan tournament summary includes a NET score of 3 and the top 30 points on the schedule to go with seven wins in Quadrant 1. While Gonzaga has not lost and is the clear favorite to be the seed in the selection Sunday following Baylor’s loss to Kansas, Michigan is now approaching the safe zone for a seed, as the projected No.1 seed Ohio State and No.2 seed Villanova, Alabama, Illinois and Virginia -Western are probably too far behind to make it interesting.
Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (15-8, 7-7) ended a three-game losing streak by knocking out Texas, 68-59. Texas Tech’s defense was back on track in this one, and a balanced attacking effort (five players in double digits) helped as well. Texas started the day as a No.4 seed in the planned NCAA tournament field and Texas Tech as a No.5 seed. After Saturday’s Big 12 clash, those seeds can now be exchanged.
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 jumped late in the season, moving up to fifth place in the most recent bracketology. Cunningham’s clutch play makes this team scary as March approaches.
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Michigan. The Wolverines’ 73-57 victory over Indiana was fueled by 21 points from Franz Wagner. The 6-9 shooting guard takes on real meaning and gives Michigan even more offense when teaming up with veteran Isaiah Livers and peerless Hunter Dickinson.
Kansas. His upset from Baylor, along with stumbles from other teams, could put the No.19 Jayhawks into the mix to secure a No.3 seed. It seemed unlikely earlier this month, when Kansas lost five. on seven.
Illinois. The Fighting Illini (18-6, 14-4) rebounded from a frustrated loss earlier this week to Michigan State by holding Wisconsin, 74-69. Illinois, ranked No.4 in the Ferris Mowers Coaches poll, has a slight chance of reaching a No.1 seed, but has a strong case for settling for a No.2 seed. Badgers almost solidify that seed 2. The Illini are one of the best rebounding teams in the country (ranked fifth nationally), and that’s largely because of the big man Kofi Cockburn, who almost broke the game. rim during a monstrous dunk Saturday.
Alabama. The Crimson Tide won the SEC regular season title for the first time since 2002 with a victory over Mississippi State. As the seed of the SEC tournament, they will get a double bye.
Clemson. The Tigers (15-5, 9-5) came into the day as a projected No.7 seed and had to avoid a loss to solidify their inclusion in the NCAA tournament, and that was accomplished by pushing back Miami (Fla.), 66-58. Avoiding losses to low-level opponents is essential at this point in the season.
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Tennessee. The Volunteers (16-7, 9-7) fell to a mediocre SEC team in Auburn, 77-72, and it’s three of the last four they’ve lost now. Tennessee had slipped to a No.6 seed in the final installment and Saturday’s result won’t help rebuild a better seed.
Florida State. The Seminoles climbed to the top of the ACC standings but failed to appear to be a top team in the league on Saturday, losing to North Carolina 78-70. FSU was in a good position to land a No.3 seed, but now they could come close to a No.4 seed. Luckily for the state of Florida, another projected No.3 seed, Oklahoma, lost.
Texas. The Longhorns (14-7, 8-6) came off a big win over Kansas but couldn’t take advantage of that momentum against a winning Texas Tech team. The Big 12 slate has positioned Texas for a five seed, but the difference between a No.3 or No.5 seed will be determined in the last few games.
Baylor: Even with the loss to Kansas, Baylor shouldn’t be denied a No.1 seed. That could change, however, 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 put LSU in the dangerous seed lineup. No. 9 or No. 10. In Saturday’s 83-75 loss to the Razorbacks, LSU’s defense was suspect. Offense isn’t a problem for this team, but the Tigers rank 279th in the nation in defense.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson