Going into the 2016-17 college basketball season, there was rampant optimism across many campuses. There were great expectations and high hopes.
Now, as we are heading into January, there are a number of teams that were supposed to be lock-city for the NCAA tournament. Now they are sweating a bit and have to perform well in league play to reach their lofty expectations.
Here are four teams that have to get it together or the NCAA tournament will not happen for them.
It started when the Huskies lost to Wagner and Northeastern to start the season. Then injuries hit as Terry Larrier and Alterique Gilbert went down for the season. Kevin Ollie's team fell to 5-6 with a loss to Auburn. The Huskies have not had six losses before January in more than 40 years. They will have to do major damage in the American Athletic Conference to make the big dance.
Michigan State Spartans
Injuries have been a major factor. Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling never got started. Miles Bridges missed some time. Then there are losses to the likes of Northeastern. The Spartans have a lot of catching up to do. The Spartans are 8-5 but have lost to quality opponents like Duke, Kentucky, Baylor and Arizona. Tom Izzo is a master motivator, and this young team could show something in the Big Ten.
Losses to Georgetown and Connecticut were one thing. Falling by 33 at home to St. John's sent shockwaves through the sport. Up against a rigorous ACC schedule could be too challenging. Andrew White has to step up after struggling against the Red Storm. Tyler Lydon is playing hurt. Jim Boeheim has work to do.
The Longhorns are young, and losses to the likes of UT-Arlington did not help. Close losses to Michigan and Arkansas could have gone the other way. At 6-5, the Longhorns need to roll early in the Big 12. The first four league games are potential Ws if Texas is on target.