With the end of regular season play on Sunday evening, the 2017 Big Ten Tournament bracket became finalized. It’s a schedule that should set up more than a few great games and likely, a few rivalry games as well.
However, perhaps nothing was more intriguing about this year’s bracket than the “upper half” of the field. This is the side that features No. 1 seed Purdue, No. 4 seed Minnesota, and No. 5 seed Michigan State. There’s plenty of star power that should challenge the Boilermakers from making this year’s final yet again.
And perhaps nothing was more interesting than this year’s No. 8 seed.
Although it’s odd to spend much time focusing on an eight seed in a conference tournament, this year’s team is a unique one. Michigan grabbed the eight seed after a 20-11 regular season and a 10-8 performance in Big Ten play.
There’s nothing too remarkable about those marks for the Wolverines. And the team’s RPI isn’t that impressive either, sitting at a decent, but not great 47th in the nation.
But there is one thing that’s intriguing about this year’s Michigan team.
The team’s KenPom rating.
Despite a 10-8 record in Big Ten play and an eight seed in the conference tournament, Michigan currently sits at No. 25 nationally in the KenPom ratings. That’s above every other Big Ten team save Purdue (No. 13) and Wisconsin (No. 22) and higher than nationally relevant teams like Creighton, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, and South Carolina.
Of course, advanced stats aren’t perfect. After all, if KenPom truly predicted the outcome of games, the formula probably wouldn’t be released to the public. However, generally, it’s a pretty good measure of a team’s strength.
And Michigan’s rating is exceedingly rare for a No. 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
In fact, in the history of KenPom’s ratings, Michigan’s No. 25 rating is the best ever held by a No. 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Perhaps even more impressive, no eight seed has ever even been within 10 spots of the Wolverines.
Just take a look at the ratings below.
Big Ten No. 8 Seeds By KenPom Rating:
- 2002 - No. 83 Purdue
- 2003 - No. 76 Ohio State
- 2004 - No. 94 Indiana
- 2005 - No. 127 Northwestern
- 2006 - No. 118 Penn State
- 2007 - No. 80 Michigan
- 2008 - No. 145 Iowa
- 2009 - No. 41 Minnesota
- 2010 - No. 70 Michigan
- 2011 - No. 50 Northwestern
- 2012 - No. 102 Iowa
- 2013 - No. 39 Illinois
- 2014 - No. 63 Indiana
- 2015 - No. 60 Illinois
- 2016 - No. 50 Michigan
- 2017 - No. 25 Michigan
This year’s Michigan team clearly stands out from the group. That 2013 Illinois team is this year’s Michigan team’s closest competitor and it still finished 14 spots behind the Wolverines. All told, only three other eight seeds in the last 15 years even finished in the top 50 on KenPom and two of those teams were literally at No. 50 in the ratings.
Michigan may not be the best team to be an eight seed in the Big Ten Tournament, but there’s no debating that the Wolverines have the best advanced stats profile of any eight seed in more than 15 years.
Having a great advanced stats profile won’t guarantee Michigan a trip to this year’s Big Ten Tournament semi-finals or finals, but it does mean one thing. Purdue projects to have perhaps the toughest game for a one seed in the Big Ten Tournament in well over a decade.
That’s some kind of reward for winning the program’s first outright Big Ten title in more than two decades.