The good folks down in Lawrence, KS, can probably count themselves Penn State fans after Wednesday night.
The Nittany Lions erased a 15 point second half deficit to knock off No. 4 Michigan 84-78 as the Wolverines took over sole possession of first place in the “worst loss of the season” standings.
I’m not talking about point spreads. I’m not talking about upsets. I’m talking about worst losses, and it doesn’t get much worse than this. Penn State was 0-14 in the Big Ten. They were picked to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten before they lost a first team all-Big Ten player in Tim Frazier to a ruptured achilles tendon. Pat Chambers’ club entered the game 200th in the RPI.
In a vacuum, that’s ugly.
But what makes it worse is what the loss means for the Wolverines. They are now two games behind Indiana in the Big Ten standings, failing to capitalize on the Hoosier’s loss to Minnesota last night. Michigan hosts Indiana in the final game of the regular season. They would have had a chance to at least earn a share of the regular season title by winning that game. Not anymore.
This could also end up costing Michigan a No. 1 seed. The Wolverines were already trending in the wrong direction, and adding a horrific loss to their resume clearly does not help. Michigan still has a chance — they host Indiana and Michigan State at home and still have the Big Ten tournament to play — but can a team that blows a 15 point second half lead to Penn State really run the table in the Big Ten with that kind of schedule?
But all that is, in the end, moot.
College basketball is about the NCAA tournament which means that what people aren’t going to remember if Michigan gets a No. 1 seed or wins one of the two Big Ten titles; they’re going to remember whether or not Michigan makes the Final Four or wins the national title.
And as of right now, can we really trust Michigan to be good enough defensively to make the Final Four?
The Big Lead looked at teams that have made the Final Four in the last five seasons. Only two of them had a defensive efficiency that ranked outside the top 30: Butler and VCU in 2011. Michigan is 42nd in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom. According to John Gasaway’s Tuesday Truths column, Michigan has a defense that would rank sixth in the Big Ten.
And all of those numbers?
They were determined before Michigan gave up 84 points — 84 points!!! — to Penn State — Penn State!!!
Those red flags just got a bit bigger.
( MORNING UPDATE: Penn State scored 1.22 PPP against Michigan’s defense last night, which dropped the Wolverines to 59th in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency ratings. This performance has been coming, however; UM has given up 1.10 PPP over their last seven games. This is becoming a huge issue.)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.