WATCH: Michigan escapes scare from Northwestern, still squarely on bubble

Michigan is as squarely on the bubble as any team in America. That meant the Wolverines could ill-afford a loss to Northwestern in its second-round Big Ten Tournament matchup.

Luckily, the Wolverines did end up escaping with a 72-70 win in overtime, but not before giving all of Wolverine nation a collective heart attack.

Michigan largely controlled the proceedings the entire way until the final three minutes, when a Bryant McIntosh 3 gave Northwestern its first lead of the game since the opening minute. The Wolverines responded and were in good position to win the game with a two-point lead and 14 seconds to go. That’s when this happened.

With one-tenth of a second left, the Alex Olah put-back gave the Wildcats new life in overtime. The extra period was a back-and-forth affair, with the lead changing hands a few times before the Wolverines got a chance with the game tied and the shot-clock turned off to take the game for good.

Zak Irvin hit the 15-foot dagger to give the Wolverines the 72-70 lead that they ultimately would not relinquish despite their best efforts on the following possession to give Northwestern second life and a chance to win.

The key here for Michigan was simply survive and advance, which is ultimately what happened. This win was not going to be the one to clinch the Wolverines’ spot in the Dance, but it was a game that could have eliminated them if they would have lost. Now, they’ll move on to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament to take on top-seeded Indiana, which will give them an opportunity to pick up the quality win that their resume desperately needs to differentiate itself at this point.

The Wolverines are 21-11 on the season, with a No. 67 RPI and a No. 55 KenPom ranking. The biggest selling point of Michigan’s resume right now is that, compared to other bubble teams, the Wolverines have limited bad losses. They currently only have one loss outside of the top-60 of the RPI, and zero losses outside of the top-75. At a certain point though, simply keeping the bad losses to a minimum isn’t enough, and Michigan only has three top-100 wins on the year — albeit all over top-25 teams.

My guess is that that’s still probably not quite enough to clinch their spot. Beat Indiana on Friday though, and then we’ll be talking.

Zak Irvin saved Michigan with a game winner against Northwestern. (USATSI)
Zak Irvin saved Michigan with a game winner against Northwestern. (USATSI)

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