March Week 1 March Madness is the final week of the college hoops regular season. The NCAA Men’s Tournament starts in a couple of a weeks while next week college basketball squads make that one last push for a ticket to the Big Dance. Next week, I’ll have write-ups of the various conference tournaments.
This week it’s about the individual games. Let’s get to it!
March Week 1 March Madness Preview
Thursday, March 2
Iowa at #22 Wisconsin
The one game on Thursday that could have an impact has Iowa at #22 Wisconsin. The Badgers have lost 4 out of their last 5. They’re in no danger of missing the Tournament. But, a loss to Iowa, who is 16 and 13 and most likely won’t get a bid unless they win the Big Ten Tourney, could send Wisconsin to a 6-seed or lower. The Badgers need to turn around their recent luck. Beating Iowa big league could do that.
Friday, March 3
#24 Iowa State at #10 West Virginia
Both teams should feel good going into their Friday match up. Iowa State has won 6 out of their last 7 games. The Cyclones beat Kansas 92 to 89 in overtime on Feb. 4. They took down Baylor 72 to 69 on Feb. 25. West Virginia just lost to Baylor on Feb. 27. Before the loss, the Mountaineers had won 5 out of their last 6 with their only loss being an 80 to 84 game versus Kansas on Feb. 13. Iowa State has the hot hand. So, the Mountaineers aren’t a lock to get the “W” at home on March 3.
Saturday, March 4
#9 Kentucky at Texas A&M
Texas A&M was a surprise contender in the Southeastern Conference last season. At 15-13 going into the week, the Aggies aren’t close to being as strong this season as they were last season. Kentucky appears ready for the NCAA Tournament. Since losing 66 to 88 to Florida on Feb. 4, the Wildcats have won 6 straight. One of the wins was a revenge victory over the Gators, 76 to 66 on Feb. 25.
The #9 Kentucky Wildcats mustn’t blow it against the Aggies this Saturday. A loss could send Kentucky to a 4-seed or worse. A win could give the Wildcats a 3-seed or higher. This is especially true if Kentucky beats Florida again in the SEC Tournament next week.
Pittsburgh at #23 Virginia
The Virginia Cavaliers needed the 2 wins that they secured last week to maintain a Top 25 position. The Cavs had lost 4 in a row. They beat North Carolina State 70 to 55 on Feb. 25. They beat North Carolina 53 to 43 on Feb. 27. Now that Virginia has secured at least a 5-seed or 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament, they can’t let up. A 4-seed or higher is within their grasp. They’ll need to beat Pittsburgh on Saturday before going deep into the ACC Tournament next week.
#2 Villanova at Georgetown
Georgetown will be desperate in this game. The Hoyas always play rival Villanova tough. Plus, the Wildcats have taken games off before. If Villanova is at the top of their game on Saturday, they should beat Georgetown by at least 10 points. If the Wildcats aren’t at the top of their game, they could lose outright. Either way, this is an important match up for Villanova.
The difference could be between a 1-seed, a 2-seed, or even a 3-seed depending on what they do in the Big East Tourney. If Villanova blows out Georgetown, it’s hard to see the Wildcats falling further than a 2-seed no matter what they do in the Big East Tournament.
Michigan State at Maryland
Neither team is ranked. That doesn’t matter. Both teams figure to dance in March. But, and this can’t be overlooked, neither team figures to garner a high-seed in the NCAA Tournament by losing this game. Michigan State has more to lose than Maryland does. If the Spartans drop this match up to the Terrapins, it would be MSU’s twelfth loss of the season. The Spartans could end up getting a 10-seed or higher in the NCAA Tournament with a loss and a quick exit from the Big Ten Tourney. That would make Sparty’s path to the Final Four that much tougher.
#19 Notre Dame at #8 Louisville
The Cardinals are still in play for the 1-seed in the South Region. If Louisville were to win out, and win the ACC Tournament, it would be hard to keep them from a 1-seed. They’re a 2-seed unless they lose to Notre Dame on Saturday. The Irish beat Louisville 77 to 70 on Jan. 4. With a win and a deep run in the ACC Tourney, the Irish could climb to a 4-seed or 3-seed. But, it’s tough to beat Louisville at the KFC Yum Center. I like the Cardinals to exact revenge over the Irish in this match up.
Seton Hall at #13 Butler
Seton Hall must maintain its position over Xavier, Providence, and Marquette in the Big East. The Pirates are at 18-10 to start the week while those three rivals have all lost 11 games. All 4 teams should get bids to the Big Dance, but you never know. By beating #13 Butler on Saturday, the Pirates could stamp their ticket no matter how they perform in the Big East Tourney. That’s a big if.
Butler goes into the week having beaten both Villanova, 74 to 66, and Xavier, 88 to 79. Both were road wins. The Bulldogs could lock down a 3-seed or 4-seed by beating Seton Hall, and playing well in the Big East Tournament.
#25 Miami-FL at #15 Florida State
The Hurricanes are in the Top 25 for the first time in a long time. Florida State has climbed to #15 in the AP Poll. What it means is that this game could go a long way in determining both teams’ seeds for the NCAA Tournament. If Miami-FL wins, if they beat higher-ranked Florida State on the road, a 5-seed might be all but assured. Florida State could grab a 4-seed, possibly higher, with a win over Miami-FL, and an upset win over Duke, North Carolina, or Louisville in the ACC Tournament.
Memphis at #14 SMU
SMU must continue to win. They can’t lose. The Mustangs haven’t lost since Jan. 12. That’s a string of 11 straight wins. What’s truly impressive is that SMU has gone 9-1-1 against the spread in those 11 games. The Mustangs should beat Memphis, and then easily win the AAC Tournament. There’s a high probability that SMU garners no worse than a 3-seed if they do those two things. At 18-11 as of Feb. 27, Memphis needs some luck to get a bid to the Tournament.
#6 Oregon at Oregon State
Every game in the Pac-12 that involves Oregon, UCLA, or Arizona means something. I left the Arizona versus Arizona State game off my list this week because Arizona has no business not winning that battle by 14 to 20 points.
Oregon versus Oregon State could have a different outcome than what’s expected. Make no mistake. At 5 and 25 to start the week, Oregon State is the absolute worst team in the Pac-12. But, the Beavers can pull off a miracle. They did so versus Utah in a 68 to 67 win on Feb. 19 as a +12.5 underdog at home. You never know when these two battle each other. Ducks versus Beavers is one of the great unsung rivalries in college sports.
#1 Kansas at Oklahoma State
Kansas beat Oklahoma 73 to 63 on Feb. 27. Beating Oklahoma State isn’t a sure thing. The Cowboys hung with the Jayhawks on Jan. 14. As a 14-point road dog, Oklahoma State lost by 7 points. The Cowboys dropped the game 80 to 87.
It was an impressive loss because the Cowboys shot better than Kansas did from both the three-point line as well as the field. Don’t be surprised if unranked Oklahoma State finds a way to upset Rock Chalk Jayhawk straight up on March 4. That could send Kansas to a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens in the Big 12 Tourney since the Cowboys aren’t ranked.
#17 Duke at #5 North Carolina
As always Duke versus North Carolina is a big game. If North Carolina can pull out the win, they’d be in line for a 1-seed in the South Region. If Duke can pull out the win, they’d jump all the way from a 4-seed to possibly a 2-seed. The ACC Tournament may not matter that much depending on what happens in this game.
Who do I like? After watching North Carolina score only 43 points in a 43 to 53 loss to Virginia on Feb. 27, I think Duke wins this straight up.
Washington State at #3 UCLA
Washington State has no shot of making the NCAA Tournament unless they were to win the Pac-12 Tournament. That’s probably not going to happen. UCLA? The Bruins should be motivated going into this Saturday match up.
By losing to BYU, Gonzaga has left the door open for UCLA, or Arizona, or even Oregon, to snag the 1-seed in the West Region. Whomever wins the regular season and then wins the Pac-12 Tournament, could get the 1-seed in the West. UCLA has the best shot since they’re ranked #3 in the AP Poll. The Bruins can’t blow it versus Washington State on March 4.