The summit in March is the goal of the men’s college basketball teams. In a season of bizarre schedules and challenging rhythmic dynamics due to COVID-19, being a late team is the best case scenario one week from Selection Sunday.
Enter the state of Oklahoma.
The Cowboys (18-7, 11-7 Big 12) sent West Virginia 85-80 on the road Saturday to continue their late record for a strong NCAA tournament standings. The most convincing part? They did it without their best player. Cade Cunningham, the expected first pick in the NBA Draft, rolled his left ankle in Thursday’s loss to Baylor, but is expected to be back next week for the Big 12 tournament.
In recent weeks – well behind Cunningham’s heroism – OSU has gone from a projected No.7 seed to a No.4 seed in the latest USA TODAY Sports bracketology. After another victory in Quadrant 1 (top-25 at home, top-75 on the road), the Cowboys could well be in the mix for a No.3 seed.
Many teams like Oklahoma State have leaped late after establishing the identity of the teams at the end of the season due to challenges related to COVID-19. The Bubble Duke and Michigan State teams are part of this group. But how OSU has thrived, going 6-1 since mid-February.
Despite a one-year playoff ban in June for penalties by former assistant Lamont Evans, the NCAA’s delay in responding to OSU’s call means the Cowboys are ready to play in March Madness – where they will be one of the most dangerous teams. in the countryside.
Oklahoma State. With the key victory over West Virginia without Cunningham and compatriot Isaac Likekele, Oklahoma State has now won six of seven games, with its only loss to Big 12 regular season champion Baylor in the during this period. The Cowboys’ portfolio is growing more and more impressive. They now have eight Quad 1 wins, a top-30 NET score and a top 10 strength on the calendar.
Illinois. The Fighting Illini (20-6, 16-4) are on track to secure a No.1 seed in the selection Sunday with a 73-68 victory over Ohio State. The victory was revenge for a loss to the Buckeyes on Jan. 16 and showed Illinois’ defensive prowess – holding OSU scoreless for the final 3.5 minutes of the game.
Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers (23-4, 16-2 Missouri Valley) are in a good position to get an all-around offer if they lose the Missouri Valley auto-offer. After a 65-49 victory over Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference semifinals, Loyola is now in the No.8 or No.9 seed lineup. Coach Porter Moser himself has a another dangerous team in March. While this group of Ramblers are not as good offensively as their 2018 Final Four side, they are exceptional in defense – leading the country with 55.4 points allowed.
Alabama. The Crimson Tide (21-6, 16-2 SEC) finished the regular season strong as the SEC champions and tied a school record with 16 conference wins sending Georgia 89-79. Jaden Shackelford usually wears this team, but Jahvon Quinerly paced the Tide with 18 points off the bench. Coach Nate Oats’ side still have an outside chance to clinch a No.1 seed, but are currently at a comfortable No.2.
Southern Cal. The Trojans (21-6, 15-5 Pac-12) took out their rival UCLA with a winning hat-trick in Tahj Eaddy’s dying seconds. The win likely pushes USC from a projected No.5 seed to a No.4. Coach Andy Enfield has a squad that could be dangerous in March.
Creighton. The Bluejays (18-7, 14-6 Big East) came off back-to-back wins amid a poor week which saw coach Greg McDermott suspended after apologizing to his team for using insensitive comments to race. A 93-73 win over a mediocre Butler team is a step in the right direction. Creighton is positioned to get a No.6 seed and could push it up to a No.5 or No.4 by going all the way in a Big East tournament that will be wide open.
Virginia. The Cavaliers (17-6, 13-4 ACC) started the day as a projected No.5 seed and are close enough to climb to a No.4 seed with a 68-58 victory over Louisville. in the ACC final that gave them the regular season title. While the conference has been down this year, Virginia has been in the lead. After three straight losses, coach Tony Bennett’s squad beat Miami and now Louisville. A deep ACC tournament run could be the difference between a knockdown or an advancement in the first round.
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Villanova. The Wildcats (16-4, 11-3 Big East) fell to Providence 54-52 in a low-scoring Big East tilt just days after losing their best player, Collin Gillespie, for the season with an MCL tear . While Villanova still claims the Big East regular season title, the loss hurts coach Jay Wright’s team in their NCAA tournament standings, as does Gillespie’s loss. Coming into the day as a No.3 seed, there is a chance that this group will slide into a No.4 seed.
Ohio State. The Buckeyes (18-8, 12-8) are in shock in March. They lost four in a row with their loss to Illinois in a Big Ten showdown of teams fighting for the No. 1 seed in the final. OSU didn’t shoot the ball well and that’s a big part of the reason for the slip. Usually a strong three-point shooting team, the Buckeyes were 9 for 29 against Illinois and 5 for 17 in the previous loss to Iowa.
Florida State. The Seminoles (15-5, 11-4 ACC) were on their way to winning the ACC regular season title, but then lost to the ACC Notre Dame middle team 83-73, allowing Virginia to win it squarely with its victory over Louisville. Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team started the day as a projected No.3 seed in bracketology, but will likely dive to No.4 now.
West Virginia. The Mountaineers lost to an exhausted Oklahoma State team without their top player, so that’s not a good sign for coach Bob Huggins’ squad. WVU couldn’t stay ahead of Cowboys Avery Anderson III (31 points) and although they are one of the most gifted offensive teams in Huggins, the defensive discipline is not as high level as it is. has been to Morgantown in the past.
Missouri. The Tigers (15-8, 8-8 Big 12) were coming off a big win over Florida earlier this week, but couldn’t capitalize on that momentum in an 86-80 loss to LSU. After a good start to the season, coach Cuonzo Martin’s squad have been relatively inconsistent, losing five of the last seven. This will likely appear on the leaderboard lines on the Sunday of the selection. The Missouri is a No. 6 seeded No. 7 seed based on a tough February and early March. So long ago, Mizzou was one of the top 16 teams of the NCAA’s top four seeds revealed a month ago.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson