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Men’s basketball teams that need to strengthen by 2022


The first week of January is hardly the time to panic. But resumes are created in the first two months or more of the season. And a number of pre-season hyped teams or household names are in trouble.

Let’s break down 10.

Virginia: The Cavaliers begin to show signs of life. Virginia won two straight road ACC games against Syracuse and Clemson. The best win was over Providence at 18 in Brooklyn. A last-minute home defeat to Iowa won’t hurt, and being blown out in Houston at age 20 doesn’t hurt so much now. James Madison’s road losses of three and the 17-point home loss to Clemson stand out the most. Even so, Virginia is Virginia and there would be no point in dismissing it. The season will be limited to the last seven games, two against Duke and street games against Virginia Tech, suddenly Miami and Louisville. None of their KenPom or NET numbers are in the range below 60 – now. But be patient. Being a top 4 ACC team seems like a must.

Bid potential: Somehow Tony Bennett gets this force into the field.

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Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights had to deal with an injury to Geo Baker, a COVID-19 hiatus, and some heavy losses to Lafayette and UMass, and a blow through Illinois. But … the hit over Purdue and a home win over Michigan gave this team hope. There is enough talent. Ron Harper Jr. can join Baker in leading her on an offer. As? You have to play home games like Nebraska, Iowa, Maryland, Penn State, Wisconsin, and maybe someone from Ohio State, Michigan State, or Illinois. It is possible. It could be a range.

Bid potential: Rutgers seems to be struggling to get an offer. You will be projected by KenPom to finish 14-16. But if that record is broken, the Scarlet Knights can sneak into the field. I say they can do it.

Indiana: The Hoosiers were pounded by Penn State. They lost in double OT in Syracuse and couldn’t keep up with Wisconsin. The best victories are over Notre Dame in a neutral place and St. John’s home. This is not an NCAA resume. There is a lot to do here. But the schedule can show its strength if they can beat Ohio State and Wisconsin at home and part ways with the Boilermakers. This is also feasible. And when a projected KenPom profit-loss record of 10-10 is hit in the Big Ten, then an NCAA bid is within reach. There is too much talent for the Hoosiers to fade from the grid.

Bid potential: The Hoosiers were too close to fail. I will say they find a way to do this.

Michigan: This is a difficult matter. The Wolverines don’t defend. You haven’t beaten anyone before Rutgers this week, except San Diego State, which has a poor margin of losses to Arizona, North Carolina and UCF. The next two home games will be crucial this season, with Michigan State and Purdue joining Crisler. When the Wolverines are swept it becomes extremely difficult to start a bidding campaign. Confidence will decline. But this is Michigan. There is too much talent here to be able to disappear.

Bid potential: I’ll be true to the faith and say the Wolverines pull themselves together defensively. That could mean two Big Ten teams in the First Four from that group. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens.

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Arkansas: That’s hard to explain. The Hogs were as strong a team as any other in the country when they won the Kansas City Hall of Fame tournament. But they have lost four of their last five games, including losses to Hofstra and Vanderbilt. Arkansas needs to find a way to get at least two wins at home out of a group of four from LSU, Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn. Winning three would remove some fears. And finding a road win would help. I can’t imagine this team dropping completely off the grid by the end of the season.

Bid potential: Another late run by Eric Musselman brings this roster towards the end.

St. Bonaventure: Something is wrong with the Bonnies. They were the overwhelming favorite to win the regular season and the A-10 tournament last season. They got off to a hot start, winning a tournament in South Carolina with wins over Boise State, Clemson and Marquette. But something is wrong. The Bonnies couldn’t hang out with UConn for long and were then run by Virginia Tech. Injuries played a role. You have taken a break and your résumé is a bit noisy. You have to blow Davidson away. The good news is that they get the Wildcats at home, not on the street. Still, the A-10 may just be a league with two applications.

Bid potential: Based on their experience, the Bonnies will find a way and win the A-10 tournament for the automatic tender.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles have had an odd season. They were young but came out strong with wins against Illinois (excluding Kofi Cockburn), Ole Miss and West Virginia. The losses to 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 hope to the Golden Eagles. This bunch can hang out with anyone in the Big East.

Bid potential: The wins will look good at the end of the season, but the losses will be too many to take. This could be a NIT championship team.

Memphis: The Tigers have been terrible for a long time, with losses in five out of six games. But the two victories – over Alabama and in the state of Wichita – give hope to this invited team. If the veterans can help save the Tigers and the newbies can finally find some consistency, Memphis can pose a threat to an offer.

Bid potential: Memphis must win the American conference tournament. The tigers can. But if I had to predict now – I don’t see it because overall it’s not possible to be consistently good in consecutive weeks.

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State of Florida: Doubting a team from Leonard Hamilton is blasphemous. But the Seminoles just haven’t found a way to consistently score. Losses to Florida, Purdue, Syracuse, South Carolina and Wake Forest showed that this roster cannot close. The possibilities in the ACC are missing. Defeating Duke is a must.

Bid potential: I hate to say it, but I don’t see it.

Syracuse: Orange is again in a difficult position. Syracuse hasn’t defended well lately, losing to Villanova, Georgetown and Virginia in their last five games. The next two are in Miami and Wake Forest. Breaking up would help bring some relief. The double OT win over Indiana and a road win in Florida State are the wins that have some durability. But a loss to Colgate (quad four) and losing two out of three in the Bahamas to VCU and Auburn were missed opportunities. The ACC just doesn’t offer much help. Beating Duke seems like a must.

Bid potential: I may regret that, but this Orange team is not showing that it can make multiple key wins.


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