What teams have the most to play for now that March is here?
THE TOP SEEDS
Michigan: The Wolverines lost on Wednesday in one of the most embarrassing losses that you’ll see this season. They were beaten by previously-winless-in-the-Big-Ten Penn State while giving up 84 points. For a team that had recently loss three of their last four games, that’s bad. But the Wolverines still have a shot at a No. 1 seed. Why? They host Indiana, they host Michigan State and they play in the Big Ten tournament. They can still beat four top ten teams this season.
Gonzaga: Can the Zags do it? Can they string together three more wins? Can close out the season with suffering the kind of loss that will convince the doubters that no team from the WCC deserves a No. 1 seed? The Zags are a win against Portland away from being the No. 1 team in the country. Think about that.
New Mexico: The Lobos have one of the nation’s most under-appreciated resumes. I went in-depth about it here. Let’s assume they win out. They’ll have won the MWC regular season by two games, won the MWC tournament in Las Vegas, and they’ll have five top 25 wins (three away from home), 10 top 50 wins (three on the road, three on a neutral court) and 19 top 100 wins. Is that a No. 1 seed’s resume?
Georgetown: Let’s go beyond the fact that the Hoyas host Syracuse on the season’s final day with a chance to sweep their rivals in the final season as league foes. If Georgetown can win the Big East regular season title and the Big East tournament title, can the team that lost at home to Pitt by 28 points actually earn themselves a No. 1 seed?
Kentucky: The Wildcats may have a lot on the line heading into March, but they unquestionably have the least amount of pressure of any team on this list. They’re not supposed to be here. They were supposed to be relevant after Nerlens Noel got hurt. And if they can somehow find a way to beat Florida in the season finale, they’ll head into the SEC tournament on the right side of the bubble. Amazing.
Middle Tennessee State, Belmont, Akron and Louisiana Tech: Hope is all but lost for these four teams. They are pretty unlikely to play their way into an at-large bid at this point in the year. That said, all four are probably good enough to pull off an upset or two in the tournament. They just have to get there first. Auto-bid or bust.
Creighton and Wichita State: On Saturday, they play in Omaha for the MVC regular season title. That will be awesome, but for the loser, they’re put into a precarious positon. A loss in the first round of Arch Madness could end up dumping them into the NIT. Two league titles and a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line in the span of two weeks?
Iowa, Arizona State, Villanova and Iowa State: What do these four teams have in common? They’re all on the bubble, but they all have tough schedule down the stretch and play in power conferences that will provide plenty of conference tournament opportunities for big wins. Iowa gets Indiana and Illinois. Arizona State is at USC and at Arizona. Villanova has Pitt and Georgetown. Iowa State has Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Boise State: The Broncos are in the same boat. They’re probably on the outside of the tournament looking in as of right now, but take a gander at their schedule down the stretch: Colorado State, at UNLV, San Diego State, the MWC tournament. If Leon Rice’s club wants to go dancing, they’ll have plenty of chances to make it happen.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.