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.
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
West Virginia (@ Iowa State)
Kansas (vs Kansas State)
Wisconsin (vs Penn State)
BYU (@ San Diego)
Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose
Tennessee (@ Ole Miss)
Arkansas (vs Mississippi State)
Toledo (vs Akron)
The only matchup in this category that needs is exploring will be played in Ohio. The SEC games are between good teams and teams with minimal bubble aspirations. Toledo, however, is compelling. The Rockets lead Akron by 1.5 games atop the MAC standings and have an 8-0 record at home. Riding a four-game winning streak, Toledo went 8-1 in January with an average margin of victory of around 13 points. Their only loss was a 95-94 defeat at the hands of this Akron Zips team. A win over Akron would extend their conference lead and take down their toughest remaining opponent. Toledo is one of the strongest weak-conference leaders and can still move up to higher seed lines with a solid close to the season.
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.
Baylor @ Texas
Another marquee Big 12 matchup takes centerstage on ESPN. Baylor is 16-0, has a case for the best team in the country, and hasn’t even faced a scare in over two weeks. In that same span, Texas is 0-1 losing a close game to Oklahoma and having three games canceled or postponed. Even on the road the Bears are a solid favorite, but either team solidifies their already pristine resume with a win. Baylor continues to chase a top overall seed and Texas seeks movement onto a first-seeded draw line.
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 @ Clemson
For this ACC tilt, the winner still gets a boost but Clemson needs to stop their skid. They have lost four of their last five and have a losing conference record. The Tar Heels, conversely, have righted their ship going 6-1 in January. The concern for North Carolina is margin of victory. They have only won once by more than 10 points since the start of December. Fortunately for UNC, Clemson is the lowest scoring team in the conference averaging 64.4 points per game. The Tar Heels are a great rebounding team, leading the ACC in rebounds with three players averaging over seven boards a game. If the Tigers can stand strong on scoring defense, North Carolina still has the board-crashing ability to thrive on second chance points and long possessions.
USC @ Stanford
This game features two teams who have been previewed many times in these articles. Neither USC nor Stanford has a stranglehold on a March Madness bid nor do they standout as a favorite for this matchup. Trojans forward Evan Mobley and Cardinal forward Oscar Da Silva will square off in a battle between future NBAers. A loss for Stanford would drop them to outside looking in. They went 5-4 in January with their biggest success being an overtime win over UCLA. An early season win against Alabama has aged greatly but Stanford needs to finish above .500 in conference play to stake a legitimate case for themselves.
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.
Michigan State @ Iowa
A loss to a strong Illinois team shouldn’t faze the Hawkeyes as they are still one of the scariest teams in the country. Michigan State used to have that reputation but a 2-6 start in the Big Ten isn’t scaring anyone. The Spartans started January with back-to-back wins and failed to notch a victory after that. They trailed by 10+ points for the majority of their most recent game against Ohio State. They only put up 37 against Rutgers before that. There is no indication that this Michigan State team has any potential to beat Iowa, but should they pull it off they are back in contention. If they lose, that is one more quality win squandered and further downward separation from bubble talk.
Purdue @ Maryland
The Terrapins come into this game as a slight betting favorite but Purdue is the team that has won five of their last six. Maryland has been as random as a team can get going 3-7 in conference with each of their wins on the road against ranked opponents. Whatever formula they’ve come up with hasn’t lasted through any stretch. Since the start of December, Maryland hasn’t won back-to-back games against D-1 opponents. The key for success is to capitalize on turnovers. In conference games, Purdue has been the second-worst team in turnover margin while Maryland has been the best. If the tides of the game swing the right way, the Terps can find themselves back in bracket projections.
Featured Image courtesy of Rod Aydelotte / Waco Tribune-Herald
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