“College Basketball Catch-Up” is a column by Terence Holton discussing the latest men’s college basketball headlines.
We are only two weeks away from Selection Sunday, and the craziest season in recent memory continues to shock the world, including three Top-10 upsets on Saturday alone. With that being said, here are my top headlines.
The Big 12 is the best conference, and it isn’t even close
There are 10 teams in the Big 12 (I know it’s a bit confusing), and eight of them are currently in Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology, six of which are a No. 6 seed or better. You may say, “But, Terence, the Big Ten has nine projected teams in March Madness.” I’m here to tell you that the Big Ten is a big fat bowl of mediocrity.
The top of the Big Ten is No. 5 Purdue, who is 24-5, but just got swept by in-state rival No. 15 Indiana. There are four 20-win teams in the Big Ten, then a whole lot of teams between 16 and 19 wins. The top of the Big Ten has a bunch of infighting, which allows a mediocre team like Michigan to be tied for third in the conference, despite being terrible outside of conference play.
The Big 12, on the other hand, pretty much dominated their non-conference schedule, including a 7-3 victory over the SEC during the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. The bottom team in the conference, Oklahoma, waxed No. 2 Alabama 93-69 when the two faced off.
The conference contains the two reigning national champions, Baylor and Kansas, who are both projected top three seeds in Bracketology, and I could see either one winning again this year.
The middle of the conference also could knock off anyone in college basketball, with teams like TCU and Kansas State surging.
I said in my very first edition of “College Basketball Catch-Up” that I could realistically see six teams winning the Big 12 tournament. Now I could genuinely see nine teams — the only one I don’t think can, is West Virginia. But teams like Texas Tech, who started off the season 10-2 before getting to conference play, very much could make a run in their conference tournament.
All I know is that I’m excited for the Big 12 tournament.
The NCAA tournament bubble is boiling over
As usual, as we get closer to March Madness, the NCAA tournament bubble, which includes teams who are either just in or out, starts to get airtight. So let’s look at some of how those teams did this weekend.
The teams I will focus on are USC, North Carolina, Mississippi State and West Virginia.
Shockingly enough, USC has the most wins out of all these teams, yet a few bad losses keep them in the play-in-game spot. However, the Trojans are now peaking at the right time with four straight wins. The Trojans are back to full strength with no major injuries, which is huge, as they are 8-1 when at full strength, with that one loss coming at No. 8 Arizona. In my opinion, the key to Trojans’ success is winning out, and you’re in. USC plays at home this week against Arizona and Arizona State, and if they win, they are in.
North Carolina has by far been the greatest disappointment of this season after starting the season as preseason No. 1. The Tar Heels are currently projected as a First Four Out by Joe Lunardi. If they miss the tournament, they will be the first preseason No. 1 to miss the tournament. However, UNC picked up a huge win over No. 6 Virginia on Saturday, which will bolster their resume. Nonetheless, I still think they will need to make a deep run in the ACC tournament if they want to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
Mississippi State is another team that just picked up a much-needed win but will most likely need to make a run in the SEC tournament if they want to make it to March Madness. The Bulldogs just beat a solid No. 24 Texas A&M squad on Saturday. Earlier in the season, they picked up wins over No. 22 TCU and No. 6 Marquette, their main driving arguments for the tournament, combatting some poor losses, including Drake and a 30-point steamrolling by No. 12 Tennessee. If they want to get into the NCAA tournament, Mississippi State will have to finish strong.
West Virginia is on the lesser side of my personal bubble watch. The Mountaineers, I think, are receiving an insane amount of undeserving Big 12 bias, as they have only one win over a ranked opponent and are 5-11 in Big 12 conference play. That being said, West Virginia plays Iowa State tonight, and on Thursday, they play No. 11 Kansas State. If West Virginia can win those games, I think the selection committee will put them in, even if I don’t believe they fully deserve it.
This next week, I am looking forward to No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 8 Arizona on Saturday and all the mid-major conference tournaments starting this week because although some consider them unimportant, they signify that March is right around the corner.
“College Basketball Catch-Up” runs every Monday.