Now what? Michigan basketball team has an anxiety-free wait to learn its NCAA Tournament fate
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- For the Michigan basketball program, Sunday will have a markedly different feel than it did a year ago.
After being bounced from the Big Ten Tournament last season, the Wolverines went home and sweated through the NCAA Tournament selection show, sitting on pins and needles while waiting for their name to be taken off the bubble and put on a bracket.
This season, No. 10 Michigan (24-9) is comfortably in the event.
But where? And against who?
"It's interesting, the last two years we were (in), we were on the bubble," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "It'll be a little bit different (this year), until the name is announced.
"There's not the anxiety that was there the last couple years."
Prior to falling to Ohio State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday, the Wolverines held an RPI of No. 11, according to bracket expert Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com.
In Palm's afternoon projection Saturday, Michigan sat with a No. 3 seed against Belmont in Louisville, Ky. The predicted matchup opposite Michigan was No. 6 Wichita State vs. No. 11 BYU.
In ESPN.com "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi's Saturday afternoon projection, Michigan was a No. 3 seed opposite No. 14 Akron in Columbus, Ohio, with No. 6 Temple and No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth sitting in the same bracket.
The tournament officially begins Tuesday with "first four" play-in games. Second round play, the round of 64, tips off Thursday and Friday across the country.
The loss to Ohio State may end any shot the Wolverines had at playing close to home in Columbus, but it won't likely kill Michigan's shot at a No. 3 seed, since the Buckeyes entered the semifinal game with a No. 7 ranking in the RPI.
As of Saturday night, Michigan finished the season with seven wins against top 50 RPI opponents, five of those coming against teams rated inside the top 25.
Should the Wolverines score a No. 3 seed, it will be the first time a Michigan team enters a tournament that highly rated since 1998, when a third-seeded Wolverines squad beat Davidson and eventually fell to UCLA in the second round.
Per Palm's bracket, the four No. 14 seeds were South Dakota State, Belmont, Montana and Akron. Lunardi also had Montana, Belmont and Akron as No. 14s, but had Davidson as the fourth.
AnnArbor.com file photo
Any and all speculation will end shortly after 6 p.m., when the tournament bracket is announced live on CBS.
Michigan will gather privately with family and friends inside the William Davidson Player Development Center to watch the program, unlike last season, when the club held a captive live audience inside Crisler Arena while awaiting the announcement.
For the first time in a long time, Michigan will enter "Selection Sunday" knowing its dancing ticket has been punched.
And, for the first time in a long time, the Wolverines will enter the event hoping to strut their stuff beyond the first song or two.
"We're going into the NCAA Tournament next week, and we've got a lot to play for still," Michigan freshman point guard Trey Burke said. "Our No. 1 goal is to win a national championship."
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