Do you hear that sound?
The birds chirping, the bubbles bursting, the awkward small talk with John from accounting who just started watching college basketball last week but strongly believes Gonzaga won’t make the Final Four.
That’s right. March is approaching. By this time next week, conference tournaments will have started and we will be that much closer to Selection Sunday. That means the next couple weeks of the regular season are going to be huge. Buckle up.
Last week’s stock watch can be found here.
Wichita State: Ever since their loss at Illinois State a month ago, the Shockers have been laying waste to the entire Missouri Valley. Their win streak reached 10 games after dismantling Northern Iowa this weekend. In that stretch, the Shockers have beaten their opponents by an average of 24 points per game, with just one of those wins by single digits. They might not have the strongest resume, but the Shockers absolutely deserve to be dancing even if they get bounced in Arch Madness.
Princeton: A pair of wins this weekend pushed Princeton’s streak to 13 wins, and the Tigers are the only undefeated team remaining in the Ivy League. In conference play, their defense has been as stout as they come. The Tigers are giving up only .909 points per possession, which is nearly a full point less than the second-best mark (.983). They should be considered the favorite for the four-team Ivy League tournament next month.
Buffalo: Akron has been the talk of the town in the MAC this season, but Buffalo is looking like a legitimate threat to the Zips’ postseason aspirations. The Bulls have conference’s best defensive efficiency rating, and Blake Hamilton has emerged as one of the most well-rounded players in the MAC. Their win streak has reached six games, and they’ll look to avenge a one-point loss to Akron in their rematch this week.
Louisiana Tech: Barring a collapse from Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech will likely enter the Conference-USA tournament with the two-seed. On defense, the Bulldogs rank in the top-60 in three of KenPom’s Four Factors. On the other end, Erik McCree gives them a versatile matchup nightmare. They’ve won six straight, and are projected to win their final three games of the year. Keep an eye on the Bulldogs as a potential bid stealer in the conference tournament.
Richmond: The slim chance that Richmond had of winning the A-10 went out the window last week. Their normally stingy defense slipped up in losses to George Mason and VCU, and the offense couldn’t compensate to close the gap. The Spiders have gone 0-3 against Dayton and VCU this year, and could potentially have to go through both of them in the conference tournament. Richmond needs a strong finish to the regular season to maintain a top-4 seed in the A-10 tournament.
New Mexico: The Lobos are the odd-man out of the top of the Mountain West, and they’re still without star forward Tim Williams. Williams has missed the last five games, and while the Lobos have managed to go 3-2 in the stretch, they’ll need a healthy Williams to traverse the chaotic Mountain West moving forward.
Yale: Up until the last 10 days, it appeared as if James Jones was on his way to a third straight 20-win season. However, the Bulldogs have now lost three straight, and are the odd-man out of the Princeton-Harvard-Yale triumvirate at the moment. During that three-game losing streak, Yale has only managed to score over 60 points once, and gave up at least 70 in all three games. The Bulldogs will need to find their rhythm on both ends if they hope to compete with Harvard and Princeton in the tournament.
Colorado State: On the court, the Rams have won seven of their last eight games, and are in a three-way tie atop the Mountain West. But off the court controversy has arisen around Larry Eustachy. A report from the Coloradoan stated that Eustachy was nearly fired in 2014 after an investigation found that he intimidated and emotionally abused players. It remains to be seen if these reports will affect the on-court product, but it’s something to monitor as the Rams fight for a conference title.
Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies are coming off a 2-0 weekend with wins over Valparaiso and UIC. They did that earlier this season and proceeded to lose four of their next five. They still trail Valparaiso by a game in the standings, but Oakland has now won six straight since that hiccup. To get to the NCAA tournament, the Golden Grizzlies will likely have to go through Valparaiso once more, but it’s rare for a team to win all three matchups in a single season, regardless of who the opponent is.