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
VCU (vs La Salle)
Mizzou (vs TCU)
Colorado (vs Utah)
Wisconsin (@ Penn State)
BYU (vs Pacific)
UCLA (vs Oregon State)
Gonzaga (@ Pepperdine)
Creighton (@ DePaul)
San Diego State (vs Wyoming)
Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose
Florida State (@ Georgia Tech)
The Seminoles are the only team in this group that looks legitimately good. The only reason they fall here is that Georgia Tech is one of the scrappier teams not really in the tournament picture. Florida State should win against a Yellow Jackets team that they downed 74-61 over a month ago.
Clemson (@ Duke)
The Tigers have fallen fast. They have just enough early season cachet to keep other bubble teams at bay. A win in a defensive battle against Louisville looks good but three straight big losses to Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Florida State has hurt their stock. Duke is a solid favorite on the betting lines but hasn’t achieved any quality wins. Given Duke’s apparent weakness, Clemson cannot let the losses come in bunches.
Toledo (@ Bowling Green)
Belmont (@ Murray State)
These two mid-major leaders are both good. Wins are important because there exist slim realities where either Toledo or Belmont wins out and loses in a conference finals to put themselves in bubble talks. The Rockets are a better team but are also saddled with four losses including close defeats to Bradley and Akron. Belmont is 17-1 with their sole loss to Samford. The Bruins defeated the Racers 68-55 in the first meeting between the two teams.
Providence (@ Georgetown)
Xavier (@ Butler)
Pittsburgh (@ Notre Dame)
Stanford (@ Arizona State)
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.
Alabama @ Oklahoma
Florida @ West Virginia
Virginia @ Virginia Tech
Kansas @ Tennessee
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.
Arkansas @ Oklahoma State
Minnesota @ Purdue
These four teams have performed comparably this season. Each team has a similar win-loss record and tournament status. Minnesota has the best case right now followed by Oklahoma State then Purdue then Arkansas. Lottery pick prospect Cade Cunningham may be back for the Cowboys against Moses Moody and the Razorbacks. Arkansas has the fewest opportunities for big wins down the stretch of the four teams with the SEC behind both the Big 12 and Big Ten in strength. Minnesota and Purdue will face each other again in mid-February but both come into this game off of home losses. The Golden Gophers have a magic number of 75; they have not lost a game this season when scoring 75+ points (10-0). Both games should be in viewing plans for the day.
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.
Texas Tech @ LSU
The Red Raiders have had as good of a three game stretch can be while going 1-2. They upset Texas in Austin before losing at home to Baylor 68-60 and losing on the road at West Virginia 88-87. Three tough opponents in consecutive games where all of the results were close. Mac McClung has helped thrust Texas Tech to a Top 10 ranking. LSU has a similar record but not quite the same strength of victory. Freshman guard Cameron Thomas is averaging over 20 points per game in the month of January. LSU can pull off a win and frankly needs to do it. The Tigers should be in most brackets at present but this matchup could help move them above the bubble.
Villanova @ Seton Hall
When these teams first met nearly two weeks ago, viewers were given a game to remember. Six lead changes in the first half, a Laettner-esque inbounds play that wasn’t converted, and a failed redemption shot as time expired were all baked into a 76-74 Villanova win. It wasn’t until the second half of their second game back from COVID-related leave, that the Wildcats looked like the third-ranked 10-1 team that they are. Seton Hall has a great roster and even if they can’t grab a tournament bid, they are a strong enough team that Villanova won’t get a bad loss. Seton Hall, with a win, can grab some AP votes and enter some bracket projections with a big first step in making a case for themselves.
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