The first week of January is hardly the time to panic. But resumes are built over the first two-plus months of the season. And a number of preseason hyped teams or household names are in a bit of trouble.
Let’s breakdown 10.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are starting to show signs of life. Virginia won two-straight road ACC games over Syracuse and Clemson. The best win was over Providence by 18 in Brooklyn. A last-second loss at home to Iowa won’t hurt and getting blown out by 20 at Houston doesn’t sting as much now. The road loss at James Madison by three and the 17-point home loss to Clemson stick out the most. Still, Virginia is Virginia and to dismiss them wouldn’t make sense. The season will come down to the final seven games with two against Duke and road games against Virginia Tech, suddenly hot Miami and Louisville. None of their KenPom or NET numbers are in the sub 60 range — now. But be patient. Being a top four ACC team seems like a must deal.
Bid potential: Somehow, someway Tony Bennett gets this squad in the field.
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Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights had to deal with an injury to Geo Baker, a COVID-19 pause and some bad losses to Lafayette and UMass and a beatdown by Illinois. But … the buzzer-beater over Purdue and a home win over Michigan has given this team hope. There is enough talent. Ron Harper Jr. can join Baker to lead them to a bid. How? They’ve got to pluck off home games like Nebraska, Iowa, Maryland, Penn State, Wisconsin and maybe someone from the Ohio State, Michigan State or Illinois group. It’s doable. It could be a reach.
Bid potential: Rutgers seems like a stretch to get a bid. They are projected by KenPom to finish 14-16. But if that record gets flipped, then the Scarlet Knights can sneak into the field. I say they get it done.
Indiana: The Hoosiers got popped by Penn State. They lost in double OT at Syracuse and couldn’t hang with Wisconsin. The best wins are over Notre Dame on a neutral court and St. John’s at home. That’s not an NCAA resume. There is plenty of work to do here. But the schedule can play to its strength if they can beat Ohio State and Wisconsin at home and split with the Boilermakers. Once again, this is doable. And if a projected KenPom win-loss record of 10-10 in the Big Ten is accomplished, then an NCAA bid is within reach. There is too much talent for the Hoosiers to fade off the grid.
Bid potential: The Hoosiers have been too close to fail. I’ll say they find a way to make this happen.
Michigan: This is a tough one. The Wolverines aren’t defending. They haven’t beaten anyone of note except San Diego State with bad margin of defeats to Arizona, North Carolina and UCF before Rutgers this week. The next two home games will make or break this season with Michigan State and Purdue coming to Crisler. If the Wolverines get swept, then it will be extremely difficult to mount a bid campaign. The confidence will sink. But this is Michigan. There is too much talent here to disappear.
Bid potential: I’m going to keep the faith and say the Wolverines get their act together defensively. This could mean two Big Ten teams in the First Four out of this group. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that occurs.
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Arkansas: This is hard to explain. The Hogs were as tough a team as any in the country when they won the Hall of Fame tournament in Kansas City. But they have lost four of their last five games, which includes losses to Hofstra and Vanderbilt. Arkansas has to find a way to get at least two wins out of a four-team group of LSU, Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn at home. Winning three would settle some angst. And finding a road win would help the cause. I can’t see this team completely falling off the grid by season’s end.
Bid potential: Another late run by Eric Musselman gets this squad in near the end.
St. Bonaventure: There is something askew with the Bonnies. They were the overwhelming favorite to win the A-10 regular season and tournament last season. They got off to a hot start by winning a tournament in South Carolina with wins over Boise State, Clemson and Marquette. But something is askew. The Bonnies couldn’t hang with UConn late and then got run by Virginia Tech. Injuries have played a role. They’ve been on pause and the resume is a bit light. They’ve got to knock off Davidson. The good news is that they get the Wildcats at home and not on the road. Still, the A-10 may only be a two-bid league.
Bid potential: The Bonnies will find a way because of their experience and win the A-10 tournament for the automatic bid.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles have had a strange season. They were young, but came out strong with wins over Illinois (minus Kofi Cockburn), Ole Miss and West Virginia. The losses to the Bonnies, Wisconsin and UCLA are all very respectable. The 0-3 Big East start was disastrous, but then Marquette roared back and beat Providence. That should give the Golden Eagles hope. This squad can hang with anyone in the Big East.
Bid potential: The wins will look good at season’s end, but the losses will be too many to overcome. This could be an NIT championship team.
Memphis: The Tigers have been dreadful for long stretches with losses in five of six games. But the two wins — over Alabama and at Wichita State — give this loaded squad hope. If the veterans can help bail out the Tigers and the freshmen finally find some consistency, then Memphis can be a threat for a bid.
Bid potential: Memphis needs to win the American conference tournament. The Tigers can. But if I had to predict now — I don’t see it happening because of the overall inability to be consistently good in back-to-back weeks.
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Florida State: Doubting a Leonard Hamilton team is blasphemous. But the Seminoles simply haven’t found a way to consistently score. Losses to Florida, Purdue, Syracuse, South Carolina and Wake Forest showed this squad can’t close. The opportunities in the ACC are lacking. Beating Duke is a must to be considered.
Bid potential: I hate to say it, but I don’t see it.
Syracuse: The Orange are once again in a tenuous position. Syracuse hasn’t defended well lately and has loses to Villanova, Georgetown and Virginia in its last five games. The next two are on the road at Miami and Wake Forest. Getting a split would help offer some relief. The double OT win over Indiana and a road win at Florida State are the wins that have some shelf life. But a loss to Colgate (quad four) and losing two of three in the Bahamas to VCU and Auburn were missed opportunities. The ACC simply doesn’t offer a lot of help. Getting a win over Duke seems to be a must.
Bid potential: I may regret this, but this Orange team isn’t showing like it can sustain multiple key wins.