Here’s a breakdown of the two teams’ hopes. A quick note: We’ve included projected game scores from KenPom as a reference point, but there will obviously be surprises along the way. Let’s get to it.
Here’s what Michigan is looking at the rest of the way:
|Date||Opponent||Projected Score, Via KenPom|
|Jan. 10||Illinois||W, 73-63|
|Jan. 13||Northwestern||W, 69-56|
|Jan. 19||Wisconsin||L, 63-62|
|Jan. 22||Minnesota||W, 72-59|
|Jan. 25||Indiana||W, 67-65|
|Jan. 29||Ohio State||W, 69-60|
|Feb. 1||Iowa||W, 73-69|
|Feb. 5||Rutgers||W, 66-57|
|Feb. 9||Wisconsin||W, 65-59|
|Feb. 12||Penn State||W, 66-59|
|Feb. 16||Maryland||W, 71-63|
|Feb. 21||Minnesota||W, 69-63|
|Feb. 24||Michigan State||W, 71-69|
|Feb. 28||Nebraska||W, 70-63|
|March 3||Maryland||W, 68-66|
|March 9||Michigan State||L, 72-68|
Michigan probably has the best chance to go undefeated of these teams, and its toughest game will be the last regular season matchup of the season when it travels to East Lansing. But the only other game Michigan is projected to lose is at Wisconsin by one, which is essentially a toss-up.
This will still be incredibly difficult, though, because the Big Ten is really solid this year. Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Purdue, Maryland, Ohio State, Indiana and Iowa are all on track to make the NCAA tournament. Northwestern and Minnesota have a shot, so easy nights will be rare for the Wolverines.
And while Michigan is incredibly good, it doesn’t look like an unbeatable juggernaut. Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis are awesome, but this team isn’t loaded with future NBA stars. The Wolverines will have the talent edge on most nights, but not every night. They might get caught if they have an off game against any of the schools mentioned above.
And, of course, there’s the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament. It’s highly unlikely that Michigan runs the table, but when you still haven’t lost as of Jan. 9, it matters. Every Wolverines game is worth watching from here on out.
A look at Virginia’s slate the rest of the way:
|Jan. 12||Clemson||W, 65-59|
|Jan. 15||Virginia Tech||W, 66-59|
|Jan. 19||Duke||L, 71-66|
|Jan. 22||Wake Forest||W, 76-54|
|Jan. 26||Notre Dame||W, 67-58|
|Jan. 29||NC State||W, 72-68|
|Feb. 2||Miami||W, 72-56|
|Feb. 9||Duke||W, 69-68|
|Feb. 11||North Carolina||L, 71-70|
|Feb. 16||Notre Dame||W, 76-71|
|Feb. 18||Virginia Tech||W, 64-63|
|Feb. 23||Louisville||W, 65-60|
|Feb. 27||Georgia Tech||W, 69-52|
|March 2||Pittsburgh||W, 70-52|
|March 4||Syracuse||W, 62-57|
|March 9||Louisville||W, 69-56|
The only games Virginia is projected to lose are at Duke and at North Carolina, and the Cavaliers will play the Blue Devils again at home.
The ACC is not the conference you want to be in if a perfect season is the goal, to be blunt. It’s as strong as ever, featuring the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Florida State, NC State, Syracuse, Clemson and Louisville. Those are likely all tournament teams, and the ACC boasts four national title contenders (including Virginia).
Virginia should be applauded for rebounding so well after last year’s loss to UMBC. De’Andre Hunter has been as good as advertised, and Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome form one of the best backcourts in America. But even if UVA can pull off road upsets at Duke and North Carolina, there are just to many opportunities where it can slip. Like Michigan, Virginia is an elite team. But it won’t have the talent advantage every time it takes the floor.
Virginia probably isn’t going undefeated, and that has more to do with the ACC than Virginia itself. But again, it should be commended for its start.