15 College Basketball Teams That Will Collapse Before March Madness
Conference play has just begun in college basketball. Most teams are still coming off a fairly light non-conference schedule in which they feasted on under-matched opponents in order to improve their ranking.
Because of that, many teams have records that don’t quite measure up to their skill level. But now, as the competition gets tougher, teams will begin to show their true colors.
Many young teams will soon discover whether their players have matured enough to endure the grind of conference play, while others will learn just how well their veterans can step up and lead a team.
For some teams, the end of the season will be too hard to handle. Teams that are currently in line for NCAA tournament berths are in for a rude awakening.
Here are the top candidates for a late-season collapse.
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Right now, the Texas Longhorns are doing just enough to earn themselves an NCAA tournament berth. The problem is that Texas has played just two ranked teams this season and has no quality win on their resume.
The good news for the Longhorns? There are plenty of chances for the team to get that one big win.
The bad news? There are also plenty of chances for Texas to drop many more games in the Big 12, knocking them completely out of March Madness contention.
Texas still must play third-ranked Baylor, seventh-ranked Kansas and Kansas State all twice. The team also faces No. 5 Missouri once.
Another problem for the Longhorns is that J’Covan Brown is clearly the motor of the team. He averages almost 20 points per game. Only one other player on the roster scores more than 10 points per contest.
If Brown is having an off night or gets injured, there has been no indication that another player can step up and fill the void.
Texas is also plagued by having a number of freshmen on its roster. The team better hope they grow up sooner rather than later.
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The Wisconsin Badgers are currently 14-5 and in a very good spot to make a late-season run for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin has had a number of near misses against top teams, losing in overtime to the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans and coming up just three points short against the fifth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.
Despite the Badgers’ good games, the fact still remains that the team is 0-4 against the AP Top 25.
The team still has games left against top 10 teams in the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State, as well as two meetings with the No. 25 Illinois Fighting Illini and one game against the No. 13 Indiana Hoosiers.
Wisconsin has a tough road ahead in the surprisingly competitive Big Ten. The team must start rebounding better and scoring more points if they want to beat any Top 25 teams.
The Badgers are in the tournament for now, but the team could be in for a sharp decline as conference play picks up.
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The Mountain West Conference is not often thought of as a home to strong basketball teams. But the New Mexico Lobos will soon find out that getting by in the MWC is not as easy as it may seem.
New Mexico is positioned for a fairly decent seed in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The team is 15-2 and currently on a 13-game winning streak.
But the meat of the schedule is yet to come for the Lobos.
The team has not played anyone ranked in the Top 25 and has played only two teams from major conferences.
The road ahead for New Mexico will not be easy.
The team must twice play back-to-back games against the No. 16 San Diego State Aztecs and the No. 20 UNLV Rebels.
To top it off, the Lobos next game after the back-to-backs will be against the hot-shooting Colorado State Rams, a team that could easily upset New Mexico, especially given the difficulty of their two previous games.
If the Lobos let just one or two losses get to them, they could begin playing tentatively. Any team in the MWC could pick up on that and take advantage.
The Lobos are sitting pretty right now, but could be in for a long end of the season.
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After the Cincinnati Bearcats’ infamous brawl with the Xavier Musketeers, the team won seven straight games. Following that streak, Cincinnati was suddenly 12-3 and looking like a new team.
But then the Bearcats began to show their true colors. Cincinnati was beaten by a not-very-good St. John’s Red Storm team, but then came back to upset the Georgetown Hoyas.
Cincinnati is certainly capable of beating good teams, but definitely not on a consistent basis. Its wins over ranked opponents always feel more like upsets than solid wins.
To make matters more difficult, the Bearcats have not even begun the most difficult stretch of their Big East schedule yet.
The team must face the Syracuse Orange, Connecticut Huskies, Louisville Cardinals and Marquette Golden Eagles (twice) before the season is over.
Cincinnati is still working Yancy Gates back into the lineup after he was suspended for six games following the brawl.
So far, the team is not cohesive or consistent—two qualities that are absolutely necessary in order to have success in the Big East.
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The Gonzaga Bulldogs are usually the class of the West Coast Conference. In the past few seasons, however, the St. Mary’s Gaels and the BYU Cougars have been challenging the Zags for supremacy.
Usually, Gonzaga has a tough enough nonconference schedule, combined with dominant conference play, that they can secure an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
This year might be different.
The Bulldogs did not play as well as they could have at the beginning of the season. Losses in two winnable games against the Michigan State Spartans and Illinois Fighting Illini will not impress the selection committee.
Furthermore, Gonzaga cannot even count on the ease of WCC games to boost their resume. In March, Gonzaga will be on the outside looking in.
The Bulldogs were already beaten by 21 points at the hands of St. Mary’s. And Gonzaga still has one more game against the No. 23 Gaels.
BYU is a tough team this year. The squad is well-rounded and can beat an opponent in many different ways. Gonzaga must face the Cougars twice.
The Bulldogs are lacking an identity. Elias Harris and Robert Sacre must assert themselves more if the team has any chance of competing in the postseason.
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I like Robbie Hummel just as much as the next person (probably more if I’m being honest), and I want him to play in the NCAA tournament again. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it is going to happen for the Purdue Boilermakers.
Purdue has played two ranked teams all season and lost both games. Making matters worse, neither of those teams (the Alabama Crimson Tide and Xavier Musketeers) are in the Top 25 anymore.
The Boilermakers did beat the Illinois Fighting Illini, which should resonate with voters, but they have a tough schedule ahead of them.
Purdue must face both the Michigan State Spartans and the Indiana Hoosiers twice. Also, they must play the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines and the sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Not to mention another game against the vastly improved Illini.
To make matters worse, when Purdue plays Michigan State on Jan. 21, it will face six ranked teams before the end of February with only the (sneakily good) Northwestern Wildcats in between.
Unless Purdue can come up with a huge run to end the season, chances are they will have to settle for the NIT.
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The Alabama Crimson Tide seemed poised for a big season. Star senior big man Jamychal Green had come back to school with renewed focus, and junior Tony Mitchell had improved every year.
Alabama started off hot, winning their first seven games, but then a narrow loss to the Georgetown Hoyas sent the Crimson Tide reeling. They lost two of their next three and dropped out of the rankings altogether.
While it appears that Alabama has recovered and was on the road back to the NCAA tournament, the team has yet to really sink its teeth into the SEC schedule.
Alabama is coming off a close loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs and now has back-to-back games against two of the best teams in the conference—the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Crimson Tide must also face the No. 14 Florida Gators, Mississippi State again and a tough Tennessee team before the season is over.
Alabama has shown that it is not good at rebounding from a tough loss. In the SEC, a number of teams are good enough to take advantage of a squad that is having a down night.
The Crimson Tide must come together and prove that they deserved their preseason ranking. Otherwise, they will be on the outside looking in during March Madness.
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Okay, this one isn’t really fair. The Xavier Musketeers are clearly already in the midst of their season decline. I just don’t think it’s over yet.
Unlike the Cincinnati Bearcats, Xavier completely crumbled after the two teams' brawl in early December.
The Musketeers lost five of their next six games, completely dropping off the map.
Xavier has semi-responded to win three in a row, but the competition has not been terribly tough.
The Atlantic 10 is a good conference this season with very little parity between top teams. Xavier was supposed to be the best of the pack, but so far they have not proved anything.
The Musketeers have no more easy games left on their schedule. The team must play the conference leaders Dayton Flyers (twice) and Massachusetts Minutemen, in addition to good Richmond Spiders, Saint Louis Billikens and Temple Owls teams.
Lastly, Xavier must also play one more non-conference game against the Memphis Tigers, a team desperate to prove that it belongs in the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, Xavier has already begun its decline, but its fall is not likely to stop anytime soon.
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The main problem for the Illinois Fighting Illini is consistency. The team has been in and out of the polls all season because it is upsetting good teams, but failing to win games it should dominate.
Illinois upset the fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and narrowly lost to the No. 8 Missouri Tigers.
However, the team also barely escaped the 9-8 Nebraska Cornhuskers and lost two must-win games against the Purdue Boilermakers and UNLV Rebels.
Illinois is a good team, but it often needs a monster night from one of its stars in order to win. Brandon Paul scored 43 points in the win over Ohio State, but in the loss to UNLV only one player scored in double figures and no one had double-digits in rebounds.
The Illini have a number of tough games left on their schedule. They are primed to be upset by the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats or Iowa Hawkeyes.
If the team loses any of those games, combined with losses in any of its five games against ranked teams left on the schedule, Illinois will see its ranking disappear.
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The Atlantic 10 Conference is simply too tight at the top for every team to make it into the NCAA tournament. Currently, three teams are tied for the conference’s best record, and five other teams have more than 10 wins.
Because of the lack of disparity at the top, some teams are in for a fall. One of those teams is the Temple Owls.
Temple should have used its upset of the Duke Blue Devils to fuel a conference run and cement its standing as an NCAA tournament team.
Instead, the Owls lost two of their next three to open A-10 play.
Temple’s main problem is their rebounding. The Owls are 191st in the nation in rebounds per game and are not protecting the glass.
Against Duke, Temple won the rebounding battle 30-29. In the team’s loss to the Dayton Flyers, the Owls were outrebounded 37-23.
Temple has tough games remaining against the Massachusetts Minutemen, La Salle Explorers (twice) and Maryland Terrapins.
The A-10 rarely has more than a few at-large tournament bids. Temple is in danger of playing themselves out of contention entirely.
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After failing to make the NCAA tournament (or failing to crack 20 wins) since the 2005-06 season, the Seton Hall Pirates are a shocking 15-3 and 4-2 in the Big East.
Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore lead a team that is surprising everyone and looks to be making a run at its first March Madness appearance in six years.
But in the Big East Conference, nothing is certain. Seton Hall is in for plenty more losses before its season is over.
The Pirates proved in their win against the eighth-ranked Connecticut Huskies that they can play with anyone. But it is the 26-point loss to the Syracuse Orange that should have the team worried.
Seton Hall recently lost to the South Florida Bulls after blowing a double-digit second half lead.
The team has a brutal stretch coming up in which it faces the ranked Louisville Cardinals, Marquette Golden Eagles and have a rematch with Connecticut. Two of those games are away from home.
The Pirates have had a very up-and-down season so far. Their inconsistent play and lack of effort against lower caliber teams will doom Seton Hall to yet another disappointing season.
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Before anyone gets up in arms about how the Baylor Bears can’t possibly play themselves out of the NCAA tournament and how impressive their 17-0 start was, let me say this: Baylor is a good team and will, without a doubt, have a high seed in the tournament.
I just don’t think that their top-five national ranking will hold up for the entire season.
Consider this. Last night, Baylor was completely outplayed by the Kansas Jayhawks. In what could have been a tight second half game, Baylor let Kansas go on a 13-1 run to end the first half, and then never responded.
For their next test, the Bears must take on a Missouri Tigers team that wants to challenge for a Big 12 championship. In just a few weeks, Baylor must face the same Kansas-Missouri two-game stretch.
Towards the end of the season, Baylor must play a Kansas State Wildcats team and an Iowa State Cyclones squad that will both desperately need wins in order to make the field of 68. Kansas State lost by just two points against the Bears earlier in the month.
Lastly, remember that not all of Baylor’s wins have been easy. The team beat the BYU Cougars by just three points, won against the West Virginia Mountaineers in overtime and escaped the Mississippi State Bulldogs by two.
Baylor has its work cut out for it as the season progresses. The Bears will likely remain in the Top 25 and undoubtedly make the NCAA tournament, but if the team wants to make a deep run, it must avoid a late-season slide.
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The Kansas State Wildcats are on this list for one reason only—a disastrous three-game stretch right at the end of the season.
Kansas State must play the No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks at home, and then go on the road to face the No. 3 Baylor Bears and the No. 5 Missouri Tigers.
The Wildcats just finished up the same three-game stretch recently and went 1-2, but then followed that up with an upset loss to the Oklahoma Sooners.
Playing those three games in a row can affect the team’s psyche. It does not help Kansas State that its next game after that miserable stretch is against an Iowa State Cyclones team that will need to win to make the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats are playing well, and if not for some scheduling snafus, the team would be a real threat come March.
As it stands now, however, the team will be lucky just to make the tournament at all.
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After a 12-0 start, the Louisville Cardinals dropped five of their next seven games, including a 30-point shellacking at the hands of the Providence Friars.
Yes, you read that right. Providence.
The Cardinals were supposed to get better as the season progressed, not worse. The team was dealing with a host of injuries, but many of those have been resolved by now.
However, it seems as if Louisville is struggling to find its identity amid its new additions and recent losses.
The Big East is not the conference to be in for a team that needs a few easy weeks to restore its confidence and come together.
The Cardinals must play the No. 11 Connecticut Huskies and the top-ranked Syracuse Orange twice before the season is over. They will also have a tough game on the road against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Louisville is a good team, but if the players let these losses get to them, the Cardinals will not remain for long in the postseason.
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The Vanderbilt Commodores were ranked in the Top 10 to begin the season. But then a quick loss to the Cleveland State Vikings followed by three losses in four games (one to the Indiana State Sycamores) dropped them out of the polls all together.
Since that slide, Vanderbilt has reeled off seven straight wins, including an upset of the Marquette Golden Eagles.
The Commodores might be back on track for now, but it will not last long. Vanderbilt has one of the toughest schedules in the SEC.
The team must play the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats and the 14th-ranked Florida Gators twice each, once back-to-back.
Vanderbilt must also take on No. 15 Mississippi State, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the much better-than-advertised Tennessee Volunteers.
Many of the teams in the SEC play a hard-nosed style of defense that disrupts Vanderbilt’s game. The team is comprised mostly of outside shooters. When those players cannot get good looks and are pushed around, the team does not perform well.
To say the Commodores have a tough road ahead of them is putting it lightly. Vanderbilt will be lucky to escape conference play with its dignity still intact.