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
San Diego State (@ New Mexico)
Houston (@ East Carolina)
St. Bonaventure (@ Saint Joseph’s)
Villanova (@ St. John’s)
Virginia (@ North Carolina State)
Creighton (vs Georgetown)
Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose
Florida (vs South Carolina)
Mizzou (vs Kentucky)
Oklahoma State (@ TCU)
Saint Louis (@ La Salle)
VCU (@ Rhode Island)
SMU (@ Tulsa)
It wouldn’t be surprising if none of these three teams made March Madness. The Atlantic 10 has four teams in consideration for the NCAA Tournament in St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Richmond and VCU. The conference is strong enough where many teams engage in tight battles against each other. Unfortunately, the quality of team steeply bottoms out at the end of the standings. Rhode Island wouldn’t be a terrible loss but hurts a VCU team who is fighting many power conference foes on the bubble. La Salle would be a bad loss for the Billikens as they are 176th in KenPom rankings and 7-10 on the season. For SMU, opportunities are dwindling. Now that the Mustangs have lost to Houston twice, they can maybe afford one more loss against a weak remaining schedule. Don’t count on a win in Tulsa for SMU.
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.
Seton Hall @ Providence
The middle of the Big East is getting crowded fast. After the top dogs (Villanova, Creighton, Xavier) it gets dicey with UConn, Seton Hall, and Providence all with a decent case and Marquette and St. John’s hanging around. The Friars, amazingly, have had 11 of their 17 games decided by 10 or fewer points. They split series with Marquette and Creighton in January while losing by one point to Xavier and Georgetown. Providence is 2-2 in their last four games even though they had halftime leads in all of them. Seton Hall seems to be a stronger team but went 0-4 against Creighton and Villanova. The Pirates need this win more with little to gain on their remaining schedule while Providence ends their season on a date with Villanova. Give the Friars a slight edge in an important Big East tilt.
Louisville @ Syracuse
The Syracuse Orange are the most baffling team in college basketball. Their non-conference schedule consisted of narrow victories over Bryant, Northeastern, and Buffalo. A .500 record in conference play is boosted with a win over Virginia Tech but harmed by two losses to Pittsburgh. On the other side, Louisville looks to be a solid tournament team though they’ve lost three of their last four. The Cardinals play a really slow game while the Orange have been averaging over 70 point per game over the last month. Syracuse elevates in the bubble discussion with a home win. Louisville will continue to flirt with the Top 25 and hope to get a better seed for the month of 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.
LSU @ Alabama
The Crimson Tide were a wonder team through most of January. They jumped from unranked to 18th to 9th in back-to-back weeks. In that span, Alabama traveled to Baton Rouge to crush an LSU Tigers team 105-75. In that game, the visitors put up 60 points in the first half. Round two may be a shootout with LSU scoring 69+ points in all nine January games and Alabama running one of the most uptempo systems in D-1. This is a classic “Upset Alert” game where the home team is favored heavily against an opponent who can be found in some mock brackets. LSU rises above the bubble with a monster win, it just doesn’t feel likely.
Virginia Tech @ Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s chances of making the Big Dance are slipping quick. Though they had a three-game winning streak to open January, they ended it equal and opposite: a three-game losing streak. Unfortunately, the bubble is getting so crowded that the Panthers can’t coast into the postseason. They’ll need to win at least three games against Virginia, Clemson (x2), Louisville, Florida State, and this game. Virginia Tech is coming off an upset of a Cavaliers team that led for most of the first 33 minutes. Unsurprisingly, 65-51 was the final score between two snail teams. Pittsburgh’s pace isn’t exactly breakneck but there is a world where they disrupt a Hokies team that has struggled against worse opponents. The ranked 13-3 team should come away with the victory in this spot.
Featured Image courtesy of Dennis Nett / syracuse.com
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