Jim Boeheim, Syracuse, college basketball

March will come quicker than you think, and these college basketball teams need to start a mini-run before it’s too late.

1. Michigan – (7-6, 1-2)

No team has disappointed more than the Wolverines who started the season ranked inside the top five. However, January is never too late for a turnaround and it can start this week for Juwan Howard’s squad.

It’s only one game this week, but U of M has to start somewhere, and slow might be the best way. Michigan plays at No. 25 Illinois on Friday, which should result in a quadrant one victory if the Wolverines can pull it out.

Looking ahead to the following week, and it’s a favorable home game against Maryland and then at Indiana inside Assembly Hall. Michigan can earn a season-changing win this week if it goes a simple 1-0.

2. Syracuse – (7-8, 1-3)

It’s been pretty normal as of late to see Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange twist and turn through the first four months of the season only to have just enough to reach the “Big Dance” and make a Sweet 16 run.

This year, that might even be too far from the case.

Through 15 games, Syracuse is under .500 and still has to play Duke twice. If they have ANY chance at all of even getting back on the bubble, the Orange need to start right now rather than later. That would mean back-to-back home wins over Pitt and Florida State to get back to a winning record and even in the ACC.

‘Cuse still needs much more than that to get back into tournament consideration, but at 9-8, you’re not exactly out yet. I like to give a team up to 12 losses in the regular season before they should feel really worried. Technically, the Orange still has SOME room, but a winning streak is needed.

3. Saint Bonaventure

The Bonnies have had no luck this year. It’s tough enough trying to live up to high expectations in a non-power conference. And honestly, 8-3 with wins over Marquette and Clemson isn’t half bad.

But then chaos hit. The Bonnies proceeded to lose to UConn by ten and then to Virginia Tech by a whopping 37 points. The drubbing to the Hokies came on December 17th. They haven’t played since.

Right now, the almost month-long return to the hardwood is set to be on Tuesday against La Salle in Philadelphia. St. Bonaventure will then play at home against a tough VCU team.

I fear people have forgotten about how good the Bonnies had been playing and a 2-0 start should remind everyone of their worth. St. Bonaventure is a tournament team, but the odds have been stacked against them in a practically unfair way.

4. Arkansas

I’ve been pretty high on the Razorbacks all season. Heck, our page ranked them 17th over the summer. Right now, they’re in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament altogether.

Arkansas started as expected – 9-0 with some decent wins against Cincinnati and Kansas State. But once the schedule started becoming a little bit more challenging, sh*t hit the fan.

A blowout loss to Oklahoma followed by an upset loss to Hofstra set Arkansas back a bit. They rallied by cruising past Elon. But they’ve yet to win an SEC contest, losing to Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M. And those aren’t even three of the most challenging teams to play in this conference.

This week, it’s two games for Arkansas – home vs Missouri and at No. 12 LSU. Arkansas has the talent to win both, and if so, would jump right back into the tournament field at the moment. But a loss – especially to Missouri – and Eric Musselman’s bunch still has their backs against the walls.

5. Marquette

The Golden Eagles have the better resume of any of these teams listed, but they play in a tough conference to slide in on Selection Sunday.

The Big East already has a solid six teams primed to make the tournament. Marquette would have to put together a solid enough resume to make the committee think seven or eight teams out of eleven should make it. Right now, that includes wins against then No. 10 Illinois, West Virginia, and then No. 16 Providence. All of their six losses are against either ranked or fellow Big East foes. But at 10-6 (2-3), Marquette is still not in an ideal spot.

This week they have two home games – an easy but important one against DePaul – and hosting No. 20 Seton Hall. Two wins put Marquette even with the other Big East contenders, and not in a grey area where they’re at right now.

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