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
Oklahoma (vs Kansas State)
Winthrop (@ Presbyterian)
Toledo (vs Central Michigan)
Illinois (vs Penn State)
USC (@ Oregon State)
Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose
Miami @ Syracuse
Duke @ Pittsburgh
The ACC is not having its finest season. Only two teams are ranked in the most recent AP poll and neither is in the Top 10. Miami and Pittsburgh are trending up with the Canes just toppling Louisville and the Panthers knocking off Syracuse in back to back games. They also were the two teams with the slower starts in this bunch. The Orange have dropped three straight conference games and Duke still looking for a quality win. These games represent breaking points games, to an extent. The losers have their work cut out for them going forwards because there exists a world where none of these teams end the season as quality losses.
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.
No games to report.
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.
Colorado State @ Utah State
The Aggies sweeping San Diego State boosted two teams significantly. Of course, Utah State greatly helped their own cause but it also opened a window for Colorado State. The Rams only Mountain West loss came in a back-to-back against the Aztecs. With Boise State pacing the conference, Colorado State has flown under the radar. They have the highest 3-point shooting percentage (39.1%) and free throw shooting percentage (76.3%) in the conference. Utah State is on a scorching 10-game winning streak and their opponent is formidable enough that a home upset shouldn’t hurt them much.
Purdue @ Ohio State
In somewhat unlikely fashion, Purdue and Ohio State are two of the hottest teams in the Big Ten. Both have won three straight including ranked wins on the road (two of those for the Buckeyes). Purdue has no regrettable losses to this point. They have the sharpest 3-point shooter in the conference with Sasha Stefanovic as well as Trevion Williams averaging about 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. Their issue is in the turnover department giving up the second most in conference while taking away the fourth fewest. If Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell can get anywhere near his 26 point effort against Illinois, the Boilermakers will be in for a tough time.
Alabama @ LSU
The biggest riser in this week’s AP rankings was Alabama who leapt from unranked to 18th in the nation. The current SEC leader has won seven straight and not lost a conference game yet. They are also 3-0 on the road. Something’s gotta give because LSU is on a four game winning streak and is 8-0 at home. The Tigers have scored 75+ points in every game this season and have two of the three highest per game scorers in the SEC in Cameron Thomas and Trendon Watford. This might sneakily be the game of the day with the winner gaining a big edge for very important conference tournament seeding.
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.
Tennessee @ Florida
South Carolina @ Mizzou
The middle of the SEC is a gray area of good enough. If the season ended today, Alabama, LSU, Mizzou and Tennessee all confidently make March Madness. Five or six other conference teams maybe plead a close but unsuccessful case. Those teams are all good enough that they won’t tank a better teams resume. South Carolina and Florida could pull off upsets but realistically aren’t up to snuff with the conference elite.
Maryland @ Michigan
The Terps have been a thorny team knocking off Wisconsin and Illinois this season. Unfortunately, they have lost their other five Big Ten games so are very quickly dropping out of the bubble discussion. Michigan finally lost their undefeated mantle after getting smacked around by Minnesota. The Wolverines could use a
bounce back home game. The Wolverines should outclass Maryland just as they did on New Year’s Eve when they won 84-73 in College Park. If Maryland can’t win any of their next three games (Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin) it may be time to remove them from at-large consideration.
Seton Hall @ Villanova
After six straight postponed games, the third-ranked Villanova Wildcats are back in action. Without much to go off of, Villanova is a bit of a wild card. Seton Hall has the benefit of season experience playing four games during Nova’s hiatus. Sandro Mamukelashvili, Jared Rhoden, and Myles Cale are all averaging double digit points per game to give the Pirates life in a shaky Big East. The challenge will be whether they can hang in with a high-powered Villanova offense on the road. Seton Hall has much more to gain with a win than Villanova and an outside chance to dethrone the third-ranked team in the country.
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