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4 NCAA tournament opponents your team should hope to draw on Selection Sunday

The NCAA tournament is full of wild and shocking upsets each March, which is a huge part of what makes it so much fun to watch.

But this season, there are at least four programs that — despite the love they will be shown by the NCAA tournament selection committee and their traditional success in the sport — don’t seem to be in a very good place entering the postseason.

Here are four teams that, despite being projected to earn a very strong seed in the tournament, could easily slip and be knocked out of the tournament before the first weekend is over — aka, the matchups you hope your favorite team draws on Selection Sunday.

Kansas Jayhawks

Record: 22-10, 10-8 Big 12 | Projected Seed: 4 | KenPom: 22

Kansas is the perfect team to kick this list off.

The Jayhawks are slumping at the absolute worst possible time. They’ve lost four of their last five games and secured the worst conference finish in Bill Self’s tenure in Lawrence. Houston rolled over Kansas by 30 points to close out the regular season, and then Cincinnati grabbed a 20-point blowout win over the Jayhawks in their first Big 12 tournament game on Wednesday night in Kansas City.

Those two games, which Kansas lost by a combined 50 points, marked the first time that the Jayhawks have lost consecutive games by at least 20 points since 1919. It’s been a very quick fall for the team that was both ranked No. 1 in the country to start the season and a clear pick to make it out of the best conference in the country.

Now in their defense, the Jayhawks were without both stars Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar in the Big 12 tournament. Dickinson was recovering from a dislocated shoulder, and McCullar has been battling a bone bruise. Both are hopeful to return in time for the NCAA tournament, which would undoubtedly make the Jayhawks a much better team. They're projected to land a No. 4 seed, too, which is still a very solid starting spot. And, of course, Bill Self is just two years removed from his latest national title run.

But still, with how bad things have gone in the final stretch of the season, it’s hard to see Kansas making it very far at all in the NCAA tournament.

Kansas, which started the season at No. 1 in the country, is struggling amid its worst Big 12 season in the Bill Self era.
Kansas, which started the season at No. 1 in the country, is struggling amid its worst Big 12 season in the Bill Self era. (John E. Moore III/Getty Images) (John E. Moore III via Getty Images)

Marquette Golden Eagles

Record: 23-8, 14-6 Big East | Projected Seed: 2 | KenPom: 13

It’s not as bad as Kansas, but Marquette also appears to be slipping headed into the postseason.

The Golden Eagles once looked like a true threat to get past UConn and run the Big East yet again early on this season. They made it to the title game at the Maui Invitational, too, and nearly upset Purdue in Hawaii. Yet things have quickly gone downhill over the past month or so.

After a few bad Big East losses early on, UConn rolled over Marquette by 28 points last month. The Huskies completely shut Marquette down without any issue. The Golden Eagles then ended their season with back-to-back losses against UConn and Creighton before sneaking out a win over Xavier.

Perhaps most notable, though, is the loss of Tyler Kolek. The Marquette star missed their last three games of the regular season with an oblique injury, and he was ruled out from their first Big East tournament game — which ended up being a tight overtime win against Villanova. Kolek, last year’s Big East player of the year, has averaged a nation-high 7.1 assists per game this season and was huge in their early success.

If Kolek can jump back in without missing a step, it’s possible that the Golden Eagles can bounce back and make it out of the first weekend of the tournament for the first time since 2013. If he’s not at full strength, or things are just a little bit off, Marquette will be headed back to Wisconsin early.

Duke Blue Devils

Record: 24-8, 15-5 ACC | Projected Seed: 3 | KenPom: 8

Duke is a very interesting team to look at headed into the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils seem, well, off.

They were swept by rival North Carolina this season, and then they stumbled against NC State in the first round of the ACC tournament on Thursday. It marked their first quarterfinals loss at the ACC tournament since 2016. While there’s plenty that could be broken down from that game specifically, it’s what head coach Jon Scheyer said after that’s the most concerning headed into the NCAA tournament.

“I think for us, though, it’s about the competitive fire you need to have in the postseason,” he said, via The Athletic. “We didn’t have that collectively overall.”

Not great.

Duke doesn’t have many solid wins this season, either. Sure, it made it through the relatively weak ACC and claimed the No. 2 seed in the tournament, but it beat just two ranked teams all season — one of which was Michigan State early on, before the Spartans tumbled out of the rankings completely.

The Blue Devils’ best win is probably an eight-point victory over Baylor in December. They only beat Clemson, one of just four projected NCAA tournament teams from the ACC, by a single point and fell to unranked Pitt, Georgia Tech, Arkansas and Wake Forest.

Again, not great.

Scheyer is in just his second year at Duke after taking over for Mike Krzyzewski, and he seems to be set up for some significant long-term success. But his team this year is very, very beatable. And if the vibes in their locker room are as bad as it sounded after their ACC tournament loss, the Blue Devils won’t be making it far this March.

Duke was knocked out of the ACC tournament in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 on Thursday night.
Duke was knocked out of the ACC tournament in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 on Thursday night. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images) (Greg Fiume via Getty Images)

Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 28-3, 17-3 Big Ten | Projected Seed: 1 | KenPom: 3

Of the four teams on this list, Purdue is definitely the riskiest to include here.

But, especially considering what happened to them last year, it makes sense.

The Boilermakers finished the regular season with a 28-3 record, and easily took a second consecutive Big Ten regular season title. Yet, especially during the final stretch, Purdue hasn’t been that dominant.

Of the last six games that the Boilermakers won to close out the regular season, five of them were handled by double digits — and only one of them was against a ranked opponent. And their losses, while only three of them, were awful. The most recent loss came against Ohio State, which had fired longtime coach Chris Holtmann just days prior. The other two were on the road at Nebraska and Northwestern.

Purdue is undoubtedly a great team. Center Zach Edey is again the favorite to win Player of the Year honors, and the Boilermakers should earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament yet again regardless of what happens at the Big Ten tournament.

But when things go bad for Purdue, anybody can beat them. After Fairleigh Dickinson’s historic upset as a No. 16 seed in last year’s tournament — and 15th-seeded St. Peter’s upset win over the Boilermakers in the Sweet 16 the year before — a repeat performance isn’t out of the question at all.