Every year there are teams that look great in out of conference play, but come crunch time they start underperforming within their conference and either get it together to make a run in the conference tourney to give themselves a chance at the big dance or they fall off the map and never put the pieces back together. These are 5 teams who need to put the pieces back together if they even want to sniff the Big Dance come Selection Sunday.
The Bears may be suffering from lack of competition in their OOC schedule as the grind of having to play a ranked team almost every other game in the Big 12 now is hurting them since Kentucky and Syracuse were the only ranked teams they played in 13 OOC matchups. Their free throw shooting is atrocious and hurts big time as well as their defense against ranked opponents in close games. Their ability to shoot from behind the arc has pretty much been the sole thing keeping them within reach in games so far, but they can't ever quite get the big stop they need, or when they do some crazy turnover always seems to pop up. This team will need to do some serious soul searching if it doesn't want to be in the NIT for a second straight year.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes - OOC Record: 13-0 ; Big Ten Record: 3-5
The Ohio State Buckeyes flopped with their OOC schedule. I can't honestly believe they thought scheduling Marquette and Maryland as their only shots at being ranked opponents would prepare them for Big Ten. Well come 2013, Maryland wasn't ranked and Marquette was their only ranked OOC opponent. ONE RANKED OOC OPPONENT DOES NOT PREPARE YOU FOR BIG TEN PLAY. Michigan played #1 Arizona and #10 Duke in OOC play. THAT prepares you for Big Ten play. Playing top tier opponents like Arizona and losing in a 72-70 thriller prepares you for big games in the Big Ten. Snoozer 52-35 wins over lower tier ranked opponents like Marquette doesn't. Aaron Craft and company better pull off some run in the B1G Tourney to get in the Big Dance.
Funny thing is, one of Dayton's OOC losses is to Baylor, and they seem to be suffering the same fate in their conference after a successful OOC campaign. Just like Baylor though, their OOC schedule only had 2 ranked teams (Gonzaga and Baylor(at that time)) to prepare for conference play. Every loss in their conference shows blatant reasons for why they lost. Loss1 vs St. Louis: horrible shooting ; Loss2 vs. Richmond: turnovers and bad 3P shooting ; Loss3 vs. VCU: Turnovers and FT shooting ; Loss4 vs. Rhode Island: turnovers, too much fouling, and bad 3P shooting ; Loss5 vs. Saint Joseph's: turnovers and just bad shooting all around. As you can see turnovers and shooting are the key problems here for the Flyers, they need to start playing much more disciplined basketball if they want to have a shot at redemption in their conference tourney.
4. Butler Bulldogs - OOC Record: 10-2 ; Big East Record: 2-7
Considering this team only played one ranked team in OOC play to prepare for the Big East, scheduling might have set this team up for failure. The grind of the Big East is hard to prepare for, especially when you lose to an unranked team in OT in OOC play. They played valiantly in the game against their only ranked OOC opponent (lost by 2 to Oklahoma State), but when that's the only close games against top tier competition and it's almost a whole month before your conference play, you're not gonna be very prepared come Big East time. Playing the North Dakota's and Lamar's and Evansville's of the world isn't gonna prepare you for the Villanova's, Creighton's and Georgetown's of the Big East grind. Tough luck for the Bulldogs so far. Maybe enough Big East experience in their first regular season will prepare em for a big run in the conference tourney. Bulldog fans will have to hope and pray.
I honestly thought in a conference like the watered down Conference USA (after departures from SMU and company) East Carolina was gonna show up this year after a competitive 74-83 loss to Duke. Maybe I should've payed more attention to their eye opening OOC losses to UNCW and Georgia State more. They have been beaten by double digits three times in their 5 C-USA losses already. Their two close losses were to Tulane and FIU...why are they losing to teams like FIU??? Or teams like Tulane AT HOME??? I really expected more out of this squad but they have just forgotten to show up in conference play so far. Maybe they'll remember to show up to the tourney. That's their only hope.