Let the madness begin. It’s March once again — let’s pretend last March didn’t happen — and that can only mean one thing: college hoops are about to go stupid. NCAA basketball fans will get their first dose of March Madness Tuesday night when five top-10 teams and 10 of the top 25 squads take the floor. Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year.
NCAA Basketball Slate for March 2 Features Huge Matchups
Two NCAA Basketball Powerhouses Face Off: No. 4 Illinois at No. 2 Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines (18-1, 13-1 Big Ten) just might be the best team in college basketball. Full stop. They come into this matchup ranked 2nd in the land thanks to a seven-game win streak including victories over No. 23 Purdue, No. 25 Wisconsin, No. 7 Ohio State, and No. 5 Iowa. They’ve got just one loss on the season with perhaps the most impressive string of victories of any team in the nation.
However, they face a huge home test in what could be a Final Four-type matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois (18-6, 14-4 Big Ten) comes into the matchup winning nine of their last 10 games. In the most recent bracketology from Joe Lunardi, the Illini have crept up to claim the final one-seed in the field of 68. If they can pull the upset on the road tonight, they could perhaps solidify one of those spots.
Expect a great one in Ann Arbor tonight. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Battle for a Top Seed: No. 3 Baylor at No. 6 West Virginia
The Baylor Bears (18-1, 10-1 Big 12) made it through their first 18 games without a blemish before running into the Kansas Jayhawks last Saturday. Despite their first loss, they only fell one spot in the rankings as the red-hot Wolverines jumped ahead of them. For now, they still hold one of the four top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, but they’re about to get tested like never before. Not only do they have a road bout with West Virginia (17-6, 10-4 Big 12) tonight, but play subsequent games against No. 17 Oklahoma State — one of the hottest teams in the country — and No. 18 Texas Tech to close out the season. The Bears have a chance to beef up their resume and clinch a top seed, but could easily fall down the ranks with a loss or two.
West Virginia, on the other hand, comes into this game as a projected two-seed after winning eight of their previous 10 matchups, including wins over No. 18 Texas Tech (twice), No. 17 Oklahoma State, No. 15 Texas, and No. 13 Kansas. If they can add a win over Baylor to their already impressive resume, they can all but wrap up a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. CT in Morgantown, West Virginia on ESPN.
Big Ten Light Heavyweight Bout: No. 25 Wisconsin at No. 23 Purdue
Ah, yes. A classic, old-school football matchup in March.
The 23rd ranked Purdue Boilermakers (16-8, 11-6 Big Ten) come into this game as a two-point home favorite over the 25th ranked Wisconsin Badgers (16-9, 10-8 Big Ten). The two schools have nearly identical records, and the most recent AP Poll reflects that. However, according to Lunardi, the Boilermakers get the edge in terms of tournament seeding.
Currently, he projects the Badgers as a six-seed and the Boilermakers as a five-seed in the upcoming NCAA basketball extravaganza. That makes tonight’s matchup all that more important.
Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
The Iron Bowl, Kind of: Auburn at No. 8 Alabama
For the last few years, Auburn has been the basketball school and Alabama has been the football school. This season, though, the Crimson Tide own both sports. The 8th ranked Tide have dropped just two SEC contests all year (19-6, 14-2 SEC), but one of those two came a week ago to the Arkansas Razorbacks. The loss all but eliminated the Tide from contention for a one-seed, but they can still clinch a two-seed with a few more victories.
The Auburn Tigers (12-13, 6-10 SEC), on the other hand, are on the outside looking in. Despite their string of recent success, the Tigers have fallen from grace this season, back to the bottom third of the SEC. A win tonight would be huge for morale in Auburn, Alabama, but not much more than that.
Tipoff in Tuscaloosa is set for 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
One of the Hottest Teams in College Hoops: No. 12 Arkansas at South Carolina
The 12th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (19-5, 11-4 SEC) are riding a nine-game SEC win streak into their bout with South Carolina. The Hogs are on the rise on the national scene, moving up from a potential bubble team to a team in contention for a three-seed in just a matter of weeks. Their win streak has also earned them their highest AP ranking since 1998, before most college athletes were even born. They are an astounding 17-1 when senior forward Justin Smith is active, with the lone loss coming to No. n17 Oklahoma State in a nail-biter.
A win over South Carolina (6-12, 4-10 SEC) would be far from impressive, but it has the feel of a must-win game for the Razorbacks if they want to hang onto their position as a potential three-seed. After wins over Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Alabama, and LSU, they cannot afford a loss to South Carolina.
Tipoff in Columbia is slated for 5:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.
Hook ‘Em, Horns, Or Else: No. 15 Texas at Iowa State
Texas is back! Well, not in football. But they are pretty solid in NCAA basketball this year. The Longhorns (14-7, 8-6 Big 12) are another team trying to find their spot in the top-16 seeds. Currently, Lunardi has them as a four-seed, but they still have time to move up a few spots and get into the three-seed conversation. To do so, though, they absolutely have to win tonight against Iowa State.
The Cyclones (2-18, 0-15 Big 12) might be the best two-win team in the nation. There’s not much else to say about Iowa State, except that they would surely love to play spoiler and give the Longhorns the worst loss of any top-15 team this season. A loss tonight would crush Texas in terms of seeding, so they better take care of business.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on ESPN+.
Everything is Bigger in Texas: TCU at No. 18 Texas Tech
Everything is bigger in Texas. Even basketball matchups. The Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-8, 7-7 Big 12) come into this matchup projected as a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They still have a few chances to beef up their resume, as a matchup with Baylor is just around the corner before the tipoff of the Big 12 Tournament.
The TCU Horned Frogs (12-10, 5-8 Big 12), however, need a ton of help if they want to make the Big Dance. Well, they’ll have to win the Big 12 Tournament to make it, actually. The Red Raiders need this win to avoid sliding down to the dreaded realm of a seven- or eight-seed in the NCAA Tournament, so all the pressure lies on them. The Horned Frogs — like the aforementioned Iowa State — are just here to play spoiler.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on the Big 12 Networks and ESPN+.
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