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Andy Katz | Correspondent | December 29, 2021

The 10 most significant men's basketball games we missed in flurry of COVID-19 cancellations

Arizona drops and top 10 shuffles in Power 36 men's college basketball rankings

The Omicron variant wrecked a number of significant non-conference games pre-Christmas that aren’t coming back.

The loss of these matchups could be felt come Selection Sunday. They won’t show up on any team’s resume. They weren’t played so they don’t count against or for an opponent. While forfeit policies were being reversed within conferences, non-conference games didn’t fall into that category.

They simply didn’t happen.

Still, the impact is real.

RANKINGS: AP Top 25 | NET | Power 36

The 10 most significant canceled games were:

Tennessee men's basketball

1. Memphis vs. Tennessee (in Nashville)

The Tigers had just beaten Alabama and looked to be going through a course correction. Beating the rival Volunteers would have meant back-to-back quad one wins that could have redirected the Tigers toward the NCAA tournament. This was the last chance the Tigers had in the non-conference to get a marquee win after losing four in a row, including to Iowa State in Brooklyn, at Ole Miss and at home to Murray State. How the Tigers return from their COVID issues will be critical for their tournament hopes. The AAC won’t provide as many high-level resume building games with two games against Houston as the most important.

2. Colorado State vs. Alabama (in Birmingham)

The Rams were 10-0 heading into this game before COVID took them down. CSU had toppled Creighton, Saint Mary’s and Mississippi State, but a win over the Tide would have been the best of the bunch and against an NCAA tournament team (the other three are still very much in the mix for bids of course). The Rams are the overwhelming favorite in the Mountain West. Still, this game could have provided a massive lift to the resume. Instead, Davidson replaced the Rams, beat the Tide and got the bump the Rams would have received.

Kentucky men's basketball

3. Louisville at Kentucky

The Cardinals' best wins were against Mississippi State and Maryland in the Bahamas and neither of those teams are locks for the NCAA tournament. So getting a shot at rival Kentucky at Rupp was a major miss. The Cardinals lost to DePaul at home and at Western Kentucky. The Cards will need to come out of their COVID pause rolling to get a tournament resume.

4. Kansas at Colorado

The Buffaloes lost at home to Tennessee. The chance to knock out Kansas at home would have raised their profile considerably. But the COVID pause took the momentum of a three-game win streak out of the Buffs. Now, they must try to beat UCLA, USC and/or Arizona at least once or twice to be in the picture for a bid.

Ohio State men's basketball

5. Ohio State vs. Kentucky (in Las Vegas)

The Buckeyes didn’t need the Kentucky game after beating Seton Hall at the buzzer and most importantly Duke at home. Still, this would have helped Ohio State increase its seed standing even more and put national player of the year candidate EJ Liddell on an even higher platform.

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6. UCLA vs. North Carolina (in Las Vegas)

The Bruins did beat Villanova and won at Marquette for their most significant wins of the season. Two high-level games for UCLA. But a win over UNC, even if the Tar Heels were struggling at the time, was a missed opportunity for another quality win. The Bruins will be fine and can be in contention for a top-two line seed. But this game could have helped even more.

UCF men's basketball

7. UCF vs. Florida State (in Sunrise, Fla.)

The Knights are quietly putting together a possible NCAA tournament resume. A win at Miami started the process, but losses to Oklahoma and at Auburn didn’t move the needle for the Knights. UCF hosts Michigan Thursday for what could be a season-changing win. Still, not getting a crack at Florida State, which was on COVID pause at the time, would have given UCF a high-level ACC win.

8. Iona vs. Seton Hall (at Madison Square Garden)

The Gaels don’t get many cracks at quad one games on a natural court. Iona had already beaten Alabama in Orlando before losing to Belmont and Kansas in the same event. Had they beaten the Pirates at MSG then Iona would have two wins that could have made them an at-large candidate if they don’t win the MAAC. The Pirates had COVID issues and the game didn’t happen. And so now Iona will have to run away with the MAAC (which may not happen with Monmouth playing well) and then lose in a final to have a shot at an at-large.

DePaul men's basketball

9. DePaul at Northwestern

The Wildcats couldn’t afford to miss out on any chances for a win against a possible NCAA tournament team after losing to Providence in Brooklyn and at Wake Forest. DePaul is hardly a lock but the Blue Demons have a legit shot at making a tournament run. The Blue Demons' COVID issues was Northwestern’s loss with a missed attempt at a quality home non-conference win.

10. USC vs. Oklahoma State (in Oklahoma City)

The Trojans are 12-0 prior to the COVID pause. So they didn’t need the Oklahoma State game. But it could have pushed the Trojans even higher on a national level with yet another road/neutral win. USC already has six wins away from home.

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