Should Michigan basketball be ranked? 3 reasons why, 3 reasons why not

Wolverines one of only 11 teams with at least six wins, no losses

Eli Brooks #55 of the Michigan Wolverines drives past Sam Sessions #3 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half of a college basketball game at Crisler Arena on December 13, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Michigan Wolverines won the game 62-58.
Eli Brooks #55 of the Michigan Wolverines drives past Sam Sessions #3 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half of a college basketball game at Crisler Arena on December 13, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Michigan Wolverines won the game 62-58. (2020 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Should the Michigan basketball team be ranked in the new AP poll that comes out Monday afternoon?

Since starting the season ranked right at No. 25, the Wolverines have been the top vote getter among unranked teams each of the past two polls, so it’s fair to say they define “on the fringe.”

A new set of rankings will be released Monday afternoon, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Michigan on either side of the cut list. The more important question: Does Michigan deserve to be among the top 25 teams in the country?

Reasons Michigan should be ranked

1. Undefeated

The most obvious argument in favor of the Wolverines: They haven’t lost a single game. Of the 347 college basketball teams (not counting the Ivy League, which isn’t playing this year), 324 have played a game so far, and only 60 remain undefeated -- 24 among major conference teams.

READ: Here’s the full Michigan basketball schedule for the 2020-2021 season

Xavier leads the nation with a 7-0 record, and Michigan is one of 10 teams with a 6-0 record.

Tennessee is in the top 25 despite playing only two games. Florida State has played just three. There’s something to be said for Michigan already surviving half a dozen games.

2. Roster depth

Juwan Howard might not have any superstars on the roster, but Michigan has proven to be a very deep team early this season.

Returning leaders Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner are still the two biggest names, but freshman center Hunter Dickinson is making his claim as the team’s best player.

Ryan Rollins #5 of the Toledo Rockets tries to get a shot off around Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines during the first half at Crisler Arena on December 09, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (2020 Getty Images)

Eli Brooks has been solid, and even despite the injury to Austin Davis, Michigan can fill in minutes with the likes of Brandon Johns, Chaundee Brown and Terrance Williams on the wings. Mike Smith has done a solid job running the offense.

3. Ranked teams losing

If for no other reason, Michigan simply might jump into the top 25 because some ranked teams lost or struggled this week, and the Wolverines were already sitting at No. 26.

No. 19 Richmond got blown out by No. 11 West Virginia, and the Spiders’ best win, Kentucky, has lost some sizzle after the Wildcats fell to 1-4 this week.

No. 22 Ohio State beat Cleveland State by just six points, which could be a deterrent for voters. Just look at how Michigan was penalized for going to overtime against Oakland.

No. 16 North Carolina lost to No. 3 Iowa and then beat N.C. Central by just six points. The Tarheels have two losses and no real standout win.

No. 23 Arizona State lost to No. 24 San Diego State by 12 and then beat Grand Canyon by a point. The Sun Devils have a 4-2 record so far this year.

No. 15 Virginia Tech certainly might be in danger of falling out of the top 25 after losing to Penn State by 20 points at home. Michigan beat Penn State five days later.

No. 10 Duke lost to No. 6 Illinois by 15 points on their home court to fall to 2-2 on the season.

None of those losses were disastrous, and Michigan has played an easy schedule so far, so there’s no guarantee the Wolverines will replace any of these teams. But it certainly ups the chances.

Reasons Michigan shouldn’t be ranked

1. Weak schedule

That aforementioned schedule is the main reason Michigan isn’t a shoo-in to be ranked this week. The Wolverines have played three MAC teams, Oakland, UCF and Penn State.

Penn State is the only team in that group ranked among the top 100 in Kenpom -- at No. 49.

Head coach Juwan Howard of the Michigan Wolverines watches Mike Smith #12 of the Michigan Wolverines shoot a free throw against the UCF Knights during the first half at Crisler Arena on December 06, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (2020 Getty Images)

UCF and Toledo are just outside the top 100, but neither are guaranteed to be NCAA Tournament teams.

Penn State beat No. 15 Virginia Tech and UCF dominated Auburn, but still, the schedule for Michigan’s first six games has been light.

2. Untested on road

All six of Michigan’s games have come at home this season, and even though home court advantage is mitigated by empty arenas, it’s still a test to win on the road.

The Wolverines will have a chance to remedy that stain on their resume on Christmas Day, when they travel to Nebraska. After that, they’ll play at Maryland on New Year’s Eve.

But until a college basketball team plays on the road, it’s hard to really tell what they’re made of.

3. Oakland game

It’s true that a win is a win, but in college hoops, the way teams win also matters, especially when there are so few data points by which to judge teams early in the season.

Any way you slice it, that Oakland game is a blemish for Michigan. Say the Grizzlies were fired up to play an in-state opponent, or that Michigan just had an off game -- either way, it was bad.

Before playing Michigan, Oakland lost to Xavier by 52 points, Toledo by 27 points and Bradley by 14 points.

Since taking Michigan to overtime, the Golden Grizzlies have lost to Purdue by 43 points, Oklahoma State by 13 points and Michigan State by 18 points.

Michigan let an 0-7 team that has lost its other six games by an average of 27.8 points come into the Crisler Center and play to a tie for 40 minutes. It’s not damning, but it’s a reason to downgrade the Wolverines this early in the season.

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