With Selection Sunday looming, NCAA basketball’s best teams are looking to polish up their tournament resumes—and that effort isn’t just about raw win-loss totals. Some of the most dangerous teams in March Madness will be the ones that come in with a less-than-stellar record that doesn’t do justice to the talent on the floor.
The Missouri Tigers have been getting absolutely flattened in road games in their first season in the SEC, falling to 21-8 for the year. In the Big Dance, though, they won’t be facing hostile crowds in Fayetteville or Gainesville, and Phil Pressey’s team has the offensive firepower to make a serious run.
Read on for more on Mizzou and nine more teams who bring a lot more to the table than you’ll find in the win-loss columns.
Xavier’s best player is freshman PG Semaj Christon, and the Musketeers have been just as erratic as you’d expect from a team in that position. Despite their 16-12 record, though, coach Chris Mack’s charges have shown flashes of enormous potential.
For one thing, only four of Xavier’s 26 opponents have scored over 70 points against a hard-nosed defense led by 6’8” Travis Taylor and his 8.7 rebounds a night.
The Atlantic 10 is loaded with other tough defenses, though, which is a big part of the reason the Musketeers are just 8-6 in conference.
Still, wins over Butler, Temple and Memphis have given Christon and Co. plenty of chances to show that when they’re on, they’re really on.
Alone among the teams on this list, Indiana State really has no shot at an at-large bid, which is a pity.
The 17-13 Sycamores finished the season dreadfully (five losses in six games, plus a narrow home win over unimpressive Iona) but hit some remarkable highs before that skid.
Keyed by junior PG Jake Odum and a physical defense, Indiana State scored wins over Wichita State (in Wichita), Creighton, Ole Miss and Miami on the season.
A few more 27-point games from PF Manny Arop (as he had against the Rebels in Honolulu), and Larry Bird’s alma mater might have been contending for the Missouri Valley crown instead of finishing four games behind the champion Bluejays.
If Colorado had any kind of point guard, it might be leading the Pac-12 right now. Even while they rank 323rd nationally in assists, the Buffaloes have battled to 9-7 in conference (19-9 overall) and sit three games out of the top spot.
The team's success owes a lot to the terrific frontcourt tandem of Andre Roberson and Josh Scott (22.2 points and 16.7 rebounds per game combined).
Add in some solid three-point shooting from Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie, and it’s not hard to see how Colorado has notched wins over Arizona, Oregon, Colorado State and Murray State for the year.
For a team whose second-leading rebounder is a 6’1” point guard, UConn has done awfully well for itself against bigger opponents. Syracuse, Notre Dame and Michigan State are all among the 19 teams the Huskies have beaten on the season.
Of course, that total is balanced by nine losses, a painful reminder of how little margin for error a team has in the absence of any reliable frontcourt muscle.
Still, the perimeter trio of Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun makes up in scoring punch (61.4 percent of the team’s points) what it lacks in height.
Napier is also one of the country’s most confident floor leaders, a big factor in UConn’s remarkable 4-2 record in overtime this season.
The first thing to note about Iowa State’s 19-10 record is that three of those losses took at least one overtime before the Cyclones went down.
Although Korie Lucious and Co. haven’t been at their best in close games, they have been able to put up some eye-popping offensive numbers.
Iowa State is fourth in the country in scoring offense (80.1 points per game) and 12th in assists (16.3 a night). Moreover, its two games with Kansas were two of the three highest point totals allowed by the mighty Jayhawk D—even before they went to overtime.
With Tyrus McGee leading a daunting collection of three-point marksmen, Iowa State can outscore any team in the country on a good shooting night.
Mike Montgomery’s Golden Bears certainly picked the right time of the year to get hot.
Even with a seven-game winning streak, they’re still an unremarkable 20-9 overall, but having beaten Arizona and Oregon (both on the road) in that run will give them confidence to burn.
Cal has a dangerous combination of team defense (only one of its last four opponents has broken 50 points) and an electrifying scorer (Pac-12 leader Allen Crabbe and his 18.8 points per game).
Another factor not to be overlooked in postseason play is the presence of an experienced point guard in junior Justin Cobbs (4.7 assists a night).
A disastrous 3-4 stretch in MWC play (including a trio of upset losses) shoved UNLV off the national radar. Now, though, the Rebels have won four straight, and Dave Rice’s 22-7 squad is building momentum as it heads for March Madness.
Star forward Anthony Bennett is still one of the nation’s top freshmen with 17 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
He leads a towering frontcourt (including 6’9” Khem Birch and 6’8” Mike Moser) that gets just enough outside help from PG Anthony Marshall and his young supporting cast.
Although six SEC losses (every one on the road) have dumped the Tigers into fourth place in a weak conference, Missouri still has plenty of bite.
A home upset of then-No. 5 Florida showed that the team that beat VCU and Illinois early in the year is still in there somewhere.
Phil Pressey, despite his scoring troubles, is still one of the country’s better point guards, averaging 7.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
With Mizzou’s combination of inside muscle (Laurence Bowers, Alex Oriakhi) and outside shooting (Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross), the unranked Tigers will be able to make plenty of noise in the postseason.
When Virginia earns its at-large ticket to March Madness, it’ll have more bad losses than any two typical at-large teams put together.
For all the defeats at the hands of 12-16 Wake Forest and 5-25 Old Dominion, though, the Cavaliers defense makes them a threat to any opponent in college hoops.
Tony Bennett’s team also has some eye-opening wins on its 20-8 record, none bigger than Thursday’s home stunner over Duke.
With the nation’s fourth-best scoring D and sniper Joe Harris (17.3 points per game, .462 long-range shooting) to carry the offense, Virginia will be a scary foe for higher-seeded teams in the Big Dance.
There’s no better conference in college hoops this year than the Big Ten, and no bigger victim of that conference than Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers’ shaky 20-9 record is the direct result of eight conference losses—a set that includes No. 1 Indiana, No. 4 Michigan and No. 9 Michigan State.
Minnesota’s home upset of the top-ranked Hoosiers on Tuesday served as a timely reminder that Tubby Smith’s team has some scary talent of its own.
The combination of Andre Hollins, Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams Jr. gives the Gophers enough offensive explosiveness (and defensive physicality) to pose a threat even against the best teams in college hoops.