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
Belmont (vs Eastern Illinois)
BYU (vs Portland)
UCLA (@ California)
Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose
Rutgers (@ Penn State)
Saint Mary’s (@ Loyola Marymount)
As a reminder, this subsection is for teams that “need” a win instead of teams that “should” win. Rutgers and Saint Mary’s are both outside looking in teams that could slip away from at-large consideration with a loss here. Both games being on the road are somewhat redeeming and the halfway point to the season is coming up. The Scarlet Knights get a Penn State team that hasn’t one since December 8th. The Nittany Lions also, uniquely enough, has only beat teams from Virginia (VMI, VCU, Virginia Tech). The Gaels travel to Los Angeles seeking their first conference win. The Lions are 7-0 at home but haven’t face stout competition with their best win coming against San Francisco. Penn State and Loyola Marymount aren’t playing for much besides spoiler at this point.
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.
USC @ Stanford
Neither team is coming into this game with any momentum. Stanford just lost two straight road games to Utah and Colorado while USC had a six-game winning streak snapped in Corvallis by Oregon State. For Stanford, first half deficits were insurmountable in both games. For the Trojans, the difference was free throw shooting as they went only 10-18 in a game where they made the same number of 2-point and 3-point field goals as Oregon State. Two of the best players in the conference will take center stage with USC forward Evan Mobley and Stanford forward Oscar Da Silva. Both teams are widely seen as on the better side of the bubble. The victor gets a bigger boost up than the loser drops but this may be a key head-to-head matchup come March.
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.
Indiana @ Iowa
The Hawkeyes are really good. In conference play, they lead the Big Ten in average points, rebounds, and assists per game. Iowa has also won each of their home games by at least 13 points. Practically any loss from now until the end of the regular season will be a surprise. Indiana hasn’t been a pushover team and stands a slight chance against Iowa. The Hoosiers have hung tight with some strong teams and have had a full week to prepare for this matchup. Hawkeyes forward Luka Garza seems like a favorite to win the Wooden Award but Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis is performing similarly well during conference season. Jackson-Davis is second in points per game and third in rebounds per game entering this contest. Odds are Iowa continues to roll but Indiana can get major ups if they can steal this game.
Colorado Sate @ Utah State*
The Aggies won the first matchup 83-64 handily. They never gave up the lead after taking it five minutes into the game. Brock Miller scored 20 points and Neemias Queta had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the dominant victory. Utah State deserves more than the single AP vote they currently possess. After 11 consecutive wins, more attention should be given to a strong at-large candidate. Colorado State, on the other hand, needs to put a streak of their own together. After this game, the Rams host conference leader Boise State in a two-game series. By the end of January, Colorado State may be far from at-large consideration.
Featured Image courtesy of John McGillen / uscathletics.com
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