March Madness 2014: Teams Limping into NCAA Tournament

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March Madness 2014: Teams Limping into NCAA Tournament
KEVIN RIVOLI/Associated Press

As March Madness hits its fever pitch with conference tournament play, some teams are looking ill-equipped to deal with the rigors of the most exciting championship tournament in sports.

For some teams, conference tournaments expose their ability to handle big games. For others, a recent spate of losses calls into question everything the team accomplished beforehand. 

Every team wants to feel confident heading into the gauntlet that is the March Madness tournament, but some squads find themselves reeling with just days to go, and will have to come out strong to convince fans and opponents they are worthy of their rankings.

 

Kansas State

The Big 12 has been one of the toughest conferences in the nation this season, with three teams currently in the Top 25, but Kansas State has taken several blows in recent weeks

After securing an 80-73 victory over Iowa State on March 1st, the Wildcats have lost three in a row, and a vengeful Iowa State knocked them out of the Big 12 tournament on Thursday.

Kansas State has done its best work at home, but has gone 2-7 on the road, which doesn't bode well for the neutral locations they will play at in the Big Dance.

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press/Associated Press
The Wildcats will rely on go-to scorer Marcus Foster (15.6 ppg) to carry them in the NCAA tournament.

A team that showed potential to break into the elite of their conference at midseason may now have to settle for a double-digit seed, and any more than one or two victories would be seen as a Cinderella run for this once-proud program.

 

Arizona State

After notching a shocking overtime upset win against their rivals, Arizona, the Sun Devils have gone off the rails. They've gone 2-5 against Pac-12 opponents since then, including a recent 79-58 drubbing by Stanford. Jahii Carson, Arizona State's leading scorer, was held scoreless for the first 26 minutes of that game.

Arizona State's true ability is difficult to decipher because of the ultra-tough Pac-12 schedule leading up to the conference tournament, a difficult competition to play right before Selection Sunday: 

The projections for any team coming out of this deep conference are going to be muddled by the recent results. However, the most crushing statistic of all for Arizona State is this one: They haven't won a road game in 39 days.

No home-court comforts plus an untimely slump equals an early exit for the Sun Devils.

 

Syracuse

A team that once looked like an absolute lock to make it to the Final Four has been exposed somewhat in recent weeks.

Gerry Broome/Associated Press/Associated Press
The health of Jerami Grant will be key to Syracuse getting back to its winning ways.

After going 25-0 and starting a conversation about a rare undefeated season, Syracuse lost its mojo and dropped four of its next six games, finishing the regular season at 27-4.

As Chris Carlson of Syracuse.com notes (via TeamRankings.com), the Orange rank 33rd in scoring margin this season, well off the pace of the most recent national champions.

The clutch wins now seem a bit more like lucky breaks, and Syracuse will have to navigate through a tough ACC tournament before the Big Dance starts to convince teams of their true potential.

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