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
Oklahoma (@ Iowa State)
Toledo (@ Ball State)
Belmont (@ SIUE)
Drake (@ Valparaiso)
Loyola Chicago (vs Evansville)
Texas Tech (@ Kansas State)
Oregon (vs Washington)
Colorado State (@ Wyoming)
Georgia (vs Vanderbilt)
Michigan State (vs Nebraska)
Utah State (@ Fresno State)
Teams that Need a Win but Could Lose
Virginia Tech (@ Miami FL)
Purdue (vs Northwestern)
North Carolina (@ Duke)
Tennessee (@ Kentucky)
St. Bonaventure @ Saint Louis
St. John’s @ Providence
No team among these four has a convincing case for an at-large spot. St. Bonaventure is 9-1 but hasn’t played many exceptional opponents. Saint Louis had some great quality wins early but has been slow out of the gate since a COVID-related break. St. John’s has caught lightning in a bottle winning five straight games including two over ranked opponents. Providence found success earlier in the year and is dipping with other Big East teams on the rise. The two losers of these matchups has a long road ahead, while the winners step closer to insurance in early March.
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 @ Mizzou
Kansas @ West Virginia
UCLA @ USC
All six of these teams are on their way to seeding seven or higher for the NCAA Tournament. Since Alabama broke out of its shell in January, only Oklahoma has beaten them. Mizzou has been in really close games with their last four games decided by fewer than 10 points. The Crimson Tide’s stride is hard to disrupt as they attempt almost 30 three-pointers per game and hit at a 35% clip. Kansas and West Virginia close their season series after the Jayhawks won 79-65 in December. The Big 12 is so stacked that this game will hardly make or break anyone’s season. If there was a difference-making stat, it is probably the Mountaineers field goal percentage of 42.5%. That is the second lowest in the conference and not what you want to see against a strong defensive rebounding team like Kansas.
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 @ UConn
Colorado @ Arizona
Syracuse @ Clemson
Big East basketball has been thrillingly unpredictable thus far. In the early goings, it seemed like the conference could run deep but only a few teams capitalized early. Now, upwards of seven teams feel that they are in the hunt. Seton Hall and UConn have been mainstays in these articles. The Huskies have an elite scoring defense allowing 63 points per game. Couple that with a slow pace of play, and it makes sense that no team has scored 75+ points in regulation against them. The Pirates have lost four of their last five but all of those games were to Villanova and Creighton. They are in a more precarious position with eight losses already and no high quality opponents left. Colorado has a rematch against Arizona after dropping their December matchup 88-74. The Wildcats aren’t postseason eligible but would represent a quality win for a Buffaloes team that has losses to Washington and Utah on its resume. All the Buffs are missing are some Q1 wins but in the meantime can’t take unnecessary losses.
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 @ Oklahoma State
The Longhorns have been a top shelf team all season. Their four losses have come only to ranked teams and their two road games were wins against Kansas and West Virginia. Earlier this season, Texas and Oklahoma State squared off in Austin with the Longhorns winning 77-74. The Cowboys are coming off their second loss to an underwhelming TCU team and have a really difficult schedule to end the regular season. Betting lines give a small edge to the road team fighting for high seeding in March.
Virginia @ Pittsburgh
This game is unique because Pittsburgh has just enough momentum to make the upset group. Virginia is a heavy home favorite in a classic matchup between a battle-tested top tier team and a mediocre power conference sleeper. To have a shot, the Panthers need to dominate the glass. They average over 40 rebounds per game and are the second best offensive rebounding team in the ACC. No harm done to Pitt in a loss or Virginia in a loss. Should the upset occur, Pittsburgh will pop up on many mock brackets.
Creighton @ Marquette
Speaking of teams on their last legs, Marquette was hopeful after a mini-run of victories against Providence at St. John’s. Then came a devastating home loss to Big East bottom feeder DePaul and losses to Providence and St. John’s. Now a win against either Creighton or Villanova in their next couple games will reintroduce them to the bubble. Anything short of that may be curtains for the Golden Eagles at-large aspirations.
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