Michigan needed a victory Friday to save its chances at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
It got that win, thanks to Kameron Chatman.
Noted 27 percent 3-point shooter Chatman knocked down a 3 with 0.2 seconds left on the clock to give the Wolverines the 72-69 win it desperately required over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.
Remarkably, this is the second straight day that the Wolverines have needed late-game heroics to move on in the tournament and save their at-large chances. Yesterday, Zak Irvin hit a 15-footer with three seconds left to give the Wolverines the win over Northwestern in overtime. Yesterday’s victory seemed a lot more plausible though, as Michigan led for a majority of the game. This one was certainly less so.
The Chatman 3 capped a five-point comeback with just under two minutes remaining in the game. Duncan Robinson hit a 3 with 48 seconds left to tie the game at 69 after Yogi Ferrell — typically as sure a shot at the free throw line in late game situations as you’ll find — missed one from the charity stripe that could have changed the complexion of the game by giving the Hoosiers a four point lead. Then, following a turnover on the other end by Indiana, the Wolverines waited for the last shot, with point guard Derrick Walton driving and finding an open Chatman for the win.
Walton and Irvin were the keys to this one outside of the final-minute theatrics. Irvin led the way with 17 points, and Walton set the Big Ten Tournament record for assists on that final pass to Chatman with 12. On Indiana’s side, Yogi Ferrell had 14 and O.G. Anunoby was solid all night defensively while chipping in 13.
What does this victory do for Michigan’s at-large chances? Well, that’s a good question.
On the plus side, the Wolverines now have four wins over top 26 teams in the RPI. That’s a feather in its cap that no other at-large contenders can match. Also, the Wolverines really don’t have any bad losses to speak of. When the worst loss you’ve sustained according to the RPI is a road defeat to a solid Ohio State team, there’s not much in the way to nitpick on the defeat side.
The problems start though when you look at the rest of the body of work. The Wolverines do not possess another top-100 win this year outside of those four aforementioned big victories. Their record against the top-100 is now 4-11, worse than any other bubble team. Their RPI is projected to move up to No. 54 with the win, which still places them squarely on the bubble.
At this point, the safest way for the Wolverines to punch their ticket to the Dance is to win the Big Ten Tournament and leave it out of the hands of the committee. They’ll get the chance to move closer to playing for the title on Saturday afternoon, when they take on either Illinois or Purdue.
But for now, Michigan fans can rest easy. Their hopes for a run in the NCAA Tournament live for another day.