With over 300 NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs, there are games on every day. Top 25 rankings help determine marquee matchups and nationally televised matchups. Postseason play is so inclusive that every game counts and every team is chasing success in March. This article will discuss the opportunities for teams to boost or hurt their resumes as March Madness nears.
* – indicates second game in back-to-back series already covered in previous day.
MUST WIN GAMES
These teams already have a fine resume and risk tacking a bad loss on their resume or are a bad loss from falling out of at-large contention.
Teams that Should Win
Liberty (@ Stetson)*
Kansas (@ Iowa State)
Colorado State (@ San Jose State)*
Furman (vs East Tennessee State)
UCLA (vs Washington)
Tennessee (vs Vanderbilt)
Loyola-Chicago (vs Northern Iowa)
Texas (vs Kansas State)
South Dakota State (@ Omaha)*
USC (vs Washington)
Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose
Marquette @ Saint John’s
Syracuse @ Pittsburgh
All four of these teams earn their spot in this section because they are middle-of-the-pack teams that are probably outside looking in right now. Syracuse probably looks the best now and has a competitive remaining slate in an ACC that lacks its usual dominance. It’s hard to look past Pitt’s opening loss to St. Francis PA but a season sweep over the Orange would help distinguish them down the stretch. Marquette and Saint John’s both feel on the precipice of disaster in a strong Big East. Whoever loses this game has a major uphill climb to break into the top five teams of the conference.
Creighton (@ Butler)
Toledo (@ Akron)
The Blue Jays have been great this year even without an anticipated standout showing by Marcus Zegarowski. He is questionable to play in the match against Butler contributing to Creighton’s vulnerability in a conference road game. Toledo has been rolling the MAC with six straight conference wins including three on the road. Akron hasn’t played enough to really gauge their place in the conference and could pull off an upset. Bank on the Rockets to extend their winning streak to nine on the road.
WINNER GETS A BOOST
These matchups have two mid-level contenders facing off for bubble separation. Games with two fringe teams are crucial in determining who gets a higher seed or qualifies for the NCAA tournament.
For High Tournament Seeding
Matchups between Top 25 teams won’t typically help resolve the bubble. For viewing interest, these matchups are more marquee while the others are for teams with high hopes and less security.
Ohio State @ Illinois
Michigan @ Minnesota
Baylor @ Texas Tech
Virginia @ Clemson
For Low Tournament Seeding and Tournament Qualification
Unlike the “Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose” above, a loss here isn’t quite as damning. These results will most fall into NET rankings Q1 or Q2 wins and losses benefitting the winner in a meaningful way.
North Carolina @ Florida State
San Diego State @ Utah State*
VCU @ Richmond
BYU @ San Francisco
Stanford @ Colorado
The Pac-12 is taking form again as a power conference. There’s a decent chance that both of these teams make the tournament but a win here goes a long way. The Buffs haven’t lost a home game yet including staving off a ranked Oregon Ducks team. Colorado also is favored in the eyes of expert rankings all over the place. Oscar Da Silva and the Stanford Cardinal have done their part to stay afloat. An unexpected 14-point loss to struggling Utah set them back a step or two but with Colorado, USC, and UCLA in sequence upcoming, two out of three wins will look great come March.
Arkansas @ Alabama
The Razorbacks have put together a fine 10-3 start with tough losses to the SEC elite in Tennessee and Mizzou. What they need is a quality win and a road date with Alabama presents that opportunity. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile are 5-0 in conference play including a win over Tennessee and already have a fair tournament case. They will have their hands full with potential 2021 lottery pick Moses Moody who is 7th in the SEC in points per game. Alabama has more insulation coming into this game and Arkansas only has so many lives left leaving the Razorbacks standing to gain more from this bout.
Games in this section are expected to go the favorite’s way but realistically could be very competitive. If the underdog pulls off a win it is a huge boost for their resume. Whoever loses doesn’t add a bad loss to their resume.
Mizzou @ Texas A&M
Florida @ Mississippi State
If there were only a couple weeks left in the regular season, Texas A&M and Mississippi State would both have bleak outlooks. But with a packed SEC, both can actually pick up a strong win this weekend. Mizzou has a key win over Illinois and an extended stay in the AP Top 25 backing them but are only slightly favored on the road. Florida’s 6-3 record doesn’t wow anyone but they have scored 70+ points in eight of their nine games, a mark the opposing Bulldogs have failed to eclipse four times.
Louisville @ Miami FL
A case can be made for Miami that they are doomed with a 5-6 record but four of their losses have been by four or fewer points. The Hurricanes need to prove their grit down the stretch in games. They lost to Virginia Tech and Clemson by two points each after nearly overcoming double digit deficits. The Cardinals, on the other hand, may be the best team in the ACC and can deny the Canes a chance at a quality win with their ability to protect leads. Three of Louisville’s four conference wins have been by double digit points. A blowout loss could spiral Miami’s season but a close game keeps them in the hunt.
South Carolina @ LSU
Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s
Gonzaga and LSU are the most likely winners in this section. Their opponents likely wouldn’t make a bracket today but can still make up ground as the season moves on. Gonzaga wouldn’t have a bad loss should an upset occur but it could be the difference between the top overall seed and a lower place in the top eight. LSU’s only losses are to Florida and Saint Louis on the road, both of whom are tournament teams as it stands. The Gamecocks paused season leaves plenty of wiggle room to re-enter postseason hopes and a win over LSU would garner plenty of respect. Saint Mary’s has to scrap with BYU and San Francisco for a prospective runner-up finish. If any of those three take down Gonzaga that all but ends the three horse race.
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