We have officially reached that part of the season before March Madness where the games get tighter, the games mean more, and there’s less room for error. Teams are surging like Ohio State and Oklahoma, while teams are fading, such as Wisconsin and Missouri. You have to be built differently this time of year, so what teams did early in the season, compared to now, has to be judged differently.
For example, a team like Tennessee decimated Missouri on the road and beat Colorado to start its season. Fast forward to now, the Volunteers struggle to score the basketball and their wins are against the bottom of the SEC. Before having a nice performance against South Carolina, who I wrote about in my last article, John Fulkerson is battling with some confidence. Arguably their best player, Fulkerson was averaging just four points in the previous four games, and just over five points in his last six. A 15-5 team seems pretty good, but the inconsistency as of late should be worrisome.
Contrary to Tennessee, Oklahoma is playing as good as any team in the country. The Sooners have won seven out of their last eight games. Five of those wins have come against top 15 teams in the country when that game was played. They won at home against Alabama in the Big 12/SEC Challenge but also won road games at Texas, Texas Tech, and West Virginia. Their 13-5 record may not be the prettiest on paper, but watching this team play, Oklahoma is as tough and gritty as anyone.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When I look at a team, I look for experience and guard play. Those two factors are pivotal for success in March. Upperclassmen have been through this before, whether it be playing in the tournament, or even going through the grind of the season. Guard play takes priority this time of year. Teams will go on scoring runs against you, but the steadiness from the guys who will have the ball more times than not is crucial.
Gonzaga and Baylor seem to belong in their own category, and rightfully so. More brackets than not, these two teams will be in people’s Final Four. However, I’m going to tell you about a team from each conference that you should watch out for to make some noise.