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NCAA Resume Change Opportunities 1/26

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 
Richmond (@ Saint Joseph’s)
Saint Louis (vs Dayton)

Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose 
Toledo (vs Miami OH)
SMU (@ Memphis)
Drake (@ Missouri State)

These mid-major teams are all require wins for different reasons. Toledo sits atop the MAC standings with an 11-4 record. Three of their losses were by a combined six points and the fourth was to Michigan. The Rockets are one of the stronger conference leaders among mid-majors and can potentially rise up in seeding with a commanding finish. SMU has put together a fine 8-2 season led by a slew of upperclassmen. Four Mustangs are scoring in double figures including Kendric Davis averaging almost 20 points per game. With Houston as the powerhouse of the conference, SMU has to win most of their remaining games for at-large consideration. Drake is one of the last of the unbeatens and back from a COVID-related pause. They get two games in Springfield with a chance to extend their dominance. Like Toledo, the Bulldogs can vie for a higher seed and maybe an at-large if their season and undefeated streak end synchronously in a conference championship.


Drake Basketball Shanquan Hemphill (nwitimes.com)

Alabama (vs Kentucky)
Tennessee (vs Mississippi State)
UConn (vs Butler)
LSU (@ Texas A&M)

The favorites in this group are all firmly in the NCAA tournament if the season ended today. LSU is the weakest of the four and also draws the toughest opponent. The four underdogs aren’t done with their season hopes yet but could use a win today to propel themselves upward. Alabama and Tennessee are strong enough games where a loss feels particularly unlikely. UConn downed Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse earlier this month so a home win is very likely. LSU and Texas A&M also squared off back in late December with the Tigers victorious 77-54. Though possible, this specific set of upsets feels less likely than other matchups that have been in this category.

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.

Oklahoma @ Texas

Texas Basketball (texassports.com)

The Longhorns were recently dealt their second loss of the season by Texas Tech. As of the most recent polls, Texas Tech and Villanova (the other team to topple Texas) are both in the Top 10. In conference play, Texas has been the highest scoring Big 12 team helped by an almost 10 made three-pointers per game. They probably rest on a two seed line in brackets but can still aim bigger. Oklahoma is in the AP Top 25 for the first time this season following wins over Kansas State and then-ninth ranked Kansas at home. Where Oklahoma has thrived is turnover ratio. The Sooners 1.57 assist to turnover ratio is well ahead of the rest of the conference. In the win over Kansas, Oklahoma had more assists and fewer turnovers than their first meeting. A third Q1 win would help put the Sooners as more of a middle seed than a bubble team.

UPSET ALERT

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.

North Carolina @ Pittsburgh 
In a year where blue bloods are falling left and right, North Carolina has found themselves a little heater. The Tar Heels have won five of six games in January, though none by more than 10 points. They are just behind the ranked teams in the conference with a 5-3 record in ACC play. Right with them are the Pittsburgh Panthers who are 4-2 in conference play. Both teams are firmly on the bubble and both teams need separation to bolster their resume. North Carolina is the favorite here and the likely better team but Pitt’s Justin Champagnie has been one of the best players in the ACC all season and is averaging 24 points per game in January. If Pitt wins, they move further up the bubble ladder whereas if North Carolina wins they start to rise above the bubble.

Mizzou Basketball Xavier Pinson (mutigers.com)

Mizzou @ Auburn 
Even though Auburn isn’t eligible for postseason play, their status as a contender still matters for other programs’ resumes. Auburn has played good teams close though they’ve lost seven games. Mizzou is on a three-game winning streak including an upset in Knoxville over a Volunteers team that was ranked sixth. Mizzou can reasonably aim for a very high seed line and Auburn can still end the year as a good bubble team. If Auburn can pull off the upset, Arkansas stands to gain the most since they swept the Tigers this season.

Featured Image courtesy of pittsburghpanthers.com

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