Weekend full of resume opportunities
For starters, we have Kentucky at North Carolina. Although the Tar Heels have lost to Belmont and UAB, they have also beaten Louisville and Michigan State. From a resume standpoint, the victories over the Cardinals and Spartans will resonate much longer than the loses to the Bruins and Blazers. That’s exactly why this is a bigger game for UK. Beating Boise State on Tuesday was notable, but a win in Chapel Hill would last much longer. Against its best competition, Kentucky has dropped close games to MSU and Baylor. No shame in that – especially for an inexperienced team. But the Wildcats’ non-conference resume will look different if they fail to capture a marquee victory. Saturday’s game with Carolina and a date with Louisville (Dec. 28) are the best remaining opportunities.
A quick peek at some other teams with resume-building opportunities:
Michigan (vs. Arizona) – The Wolverines edged Florida State in Puerto Rico, but a loss to Charlotte in the title game took a little luster off the trip. Adjusting to life without Trey Burke, Michigan also missed chances against Iowa State and Duke. Just in time, No. 1 Arizona arrives in Ann Arbor. A victory over the Wildcats would calm some nerves and put a nice stamp on the Wolverines profile.
Illinois (vs. Oregon) – With several new faces and a roster reliant on some freshman production, the Illini opted for somewhat moderate early season schedule. The result is a resume without an eye-catching victory. Illinois did post a road win at UNLV, but the Rebels have somewhat underachieved to this point. Beating a talented Oregon team in Portland would certainly make an impression.
Tennessee (at Wichita State) – While the Volunteers opened the season ranked among the Top 24 teams on our preseason s-curve, here’s what Tennessee has accomplished to date: a split with Xavier, a win over Wake Forest, and loss to UTEP. Saturday’s game at Wichita State gives the Vols a chance to regain a little swagger and build momentum heading into the SEC season. The other remaining non-conference game of note is a matchup with Virginia on December 28.
Notre Dame (vs. Indiana) – The Irish are 0-3 against the best teams on their schedule (Indiana State, Iowa, North Dakota State) and two of those losses came at home. Following IU, Notre Dame plays Ohio State. It’s time for the Irish to make a splash. Going 0-5 against its best non-conference opponents would leave Notre Dame with an uphill climb in the ACC season.
St. Johns (vs. Syracuse) – Thus far, St. John’s has put together a nondescript resume – beating Georgia Tech and Bucknell while losing to Wisconsin and Penn State. Beating the Orange would help change that. It’s also the last chance for the Red Storm to make a non-conference impression.
New Mexico (vs. Kansas) – The Lobos are a quality team and it appears they will battle San Diego State for the Mountain West title. At the same time, New Mexico’s best non-conference wins are Cincinnati (home) and UAB (neutral). We’ll see how those hold up. Meanwhile, Kansas could be ripe for the picking. The Jayhawks have lost two straight. Regardless, a victory over the Jayhawks would be the Lobos best to date. They battle Marquette on December 21.
If you’re looking for a mid-December bubble game, how about Saint Mary’s vs. Boise State. Both teams are just outside the bracket on the current s-curve.
Enjoy the weekend! It’s almost time for our first in-season bracket update.