There’s more than just a Big Ten Tournament championship on the line in Sunday’s title game between Michigan and Michigan State.
NCAA tournament seeding could be dramatically affected by the outcome of the game, most notably the Wolverines having an opportunity to grab a No. 1 seed. Of course, the Spartans can do themselves plenty of favors in the seeding realm with a tournament title, but all eyes will likely be on whether the Wolverines can land one of the top four spots in the Big Dance.
The experts see three No. 1 seeds pretty well locked in: Florida, Wichita State and Arizona. That’s before Sunday’s SEC Tournament title game (which could conceivably go Kentucky’s way) and after Arizona’s loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game. Undefeated Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Tournament last week.
That leaves one spot left, and several say Michigan is the frontrunner. A third win on the season over Michigan State would give Michigan a tournament title to go along with its outright regular-season title and would be enough to get the Wolverines to the fourth and final top line. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palms and College Basketball Talk’s Dave Ommen all put the Wolverines as a No. 1 seed in their bracketology projections Sunday morning.
So what could keep Michigan from locking down a No. 1 seed?
Other than the obvious loss to Michigan State, there are other contenders for the spot. The two top challengers come from the ACC, the two teams facing off in that conference’s championship game Sunday: Virginia and Duke. The sixth- and seventh-ranked teams in the AP poll, each has a strong case, but the down year in that conference coupled with the depth of the Big Ten would likely put Michigan on top. Still, the Wolverines fell to the Blue Devils earlier this season, if that’s something worth considering.
There seems to be a pretty strong feeling that the selection committee will give Michigan a No. 1 seed if it can win Sunday. Now all the Wolverines need to do is hold off the Spartans. Easier said than done.