NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Nebraska

The low point of UCLA's season, and Mick Cronin's tenure at the school, came just over a month ago on Jan. 11. On that night in Salt Lake City, the Bruins fell on the road to Utah by 46 points, which marked their fourth consecutive loss and one of the largest margins of defeat in program history.

The Bruins started the season 5-2 but dropped eight of their next nine games to find themselves in unfamiliar territory. But then UCLA knocked off Washington 73-61 three days after that humiliating loss, which ultimately got its season back on track. 

Heading into two critical games against Utah and Colorado this week, the Bruins sit at 8-5 in Pac-12 play (tied for third place with Oregon) and sit two games back of Arizona for first place in the conference with seven regular-season games to go. UCLA's lone hope of making the NCAA Tournament would be a run in the Pac-12 Tournament next month. That could help the Bruins steal a bid and potentially make a run like they did in 2021 when they went from the First Four to the Final Four.

The bottom line: UCLA needs some help the rest of the way, but they aren't done, yet.

Welcome back to college basketball stock watch, where all the happenings around the sport will be discussed every Wednesday throughout the rest of the season. This report will represent if a team, coach, player, school, conference, etc. have seen their stock rise or fall over the course of the last seven days.

Stock rising: Could UCLA steal a bid to the Big Dance?

Cronin came into the season with a ginormous task: replace the core players who guided the program past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for three consecutive seasons. UCLA lost Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell, David Singleton and Jaylen Clark to the next level, and Cronin elected to recruit the globe to replace that production. 

UCLA brought in eight newcomers to the roster. The best player of the bunch is guard Sebastian Mack, who is averaging a team-high 13.3 points per game. UCLA big man Adem Bona elected to come back to school for another season and has been one of the top defensive players in the sport. Add in the strong play of veteran guard Dylan Andrews and you have a team that seems to be clicking at the right time. 

The question is ... will it be too late? That will be answered next month during the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. If the Bruins take the Oregon State path in 2021 and run the table during the conference tournament, they're guaranteed an automatic bid. With a 13-11 overall record, that seems like the only path for the Bruins to reach the Big Dance. UCLA's play over the last month makes that a possibility, albeit still a distant one. 

Stock falling: UNC can't create separation in the ACC

Less than three weeks ago, it looked like North Carolina was going to run away with the ACC regular-season title. The Tar Heels were 10-0 in ACC play -- the last Power Six team to remain perfect in conference play -- and were playing like a consensus top team. Since that Jan. 27 win over Florida State, UNC has lost three of its last five games, which included an 86-79 loss to Syracuse on Tuesday. 

Virginia had a chance to move into a first-place tie atop the standings with North Carolina but fell at home to Pitt. Duke has won three consecutive games since losing to UNC at the Dean Dome and sits just a half-game back in the standings with seven games remaining. Duke hosts UNC on March 9 in a possible de facto ACC regular-season title game if the stars align.

Around the time of UNC's 10th conference win, it looked like it would coast in the ACC because the eye test matched its record. RJ Davis was playing like an All-American candidate, Harrison Ingram was one of the best transfers in college hoops and Elliot Cadeau was one of the top first-year players in the sport. And oh yeah, the Heels still had Armando Bacot

North Carolina has the personnel to make a deep run come tournament time, but the fact that it hasn't been able to create separation atop the ACC could come back to haunt. 

Stock rising: Gonzaga's NCAA Tournament hopes get a boost

Gonzaga has been a fixture of the NCAA Tournament with 24 straight appearances dating back to 1999. Prior to last weekend, that streak looked to be in danger, but a statement win against Kentucky at Rupp Arena gave Gonzaga its first Quad 1 win. 

Still, there's work to do. Playing in the WCC doesn't guarantee many chances to add quality wins to the résumé. As CBS Sports' Jerry Palm wrote last weekend, Gonzaga will likely have to win out until the WCC Tournament. That indicates Gonzaga's road clash with Saint Mary's on March 2 is a "must-win" game. If the stars align, Gonzaga could face Saint Mary's again in the conference tournament, which would add another Quad 1 opportunity before Selection Sunday.

Gonzaga needed to knock off Kentucky to keep its tournament hopes alive via an at-large bid. It did that. Now, it has to close out the season strong (or win the WCC outright) to ensure its tournament streak remains.

Stock falling: Juwan Howard up next on chopping block?

Chris Holtmann is no stranger to this column; his stock had plummeted over the last couple of months. On Wednesday, Ohio State fired Holtmann in the middle of his seventh season. Could Ohio State's rival, Michigan, become the next Big Ten team to make a coaching change? 

According to Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, that is (currently) not in the cards ... but should it be?

"I have not really thought about any changes in our men's basketball program at this time. ... I want to support Juwan [Howard]," Manuel said.

Michigan's downhill spiral started last offseason. Star big man Hunter Dickinson elected to enter the transfer portal and enrolled at preseason No. 1 Kansas. North Carolina star Caleb Love pledged his commitment to the program but enrolled at Arizona weeks later because he didn't have transferable credits necessary to easily clear the admissions bar.

Michigan is coming off a 97-68 loss to Illinois for its 12th defeat in the last 14 games. The Wolverines are dead last in the Big Ten standings with a 3-11 conference record. It's safe to say the on-court product matches the dreadful offseason. Howard is one of the most iconic members of the Michigan basketball program because of his involvement in the "Fab Five." This is Howard's dream job. You just have to wonder how long this can be sustainable before Manuel makes a change.

Stock rising: Baylor's Yves Missi is a potential lottery pick

There aren't many players that have improved their stock more in 2024 than Missi. The Baylor big man elected to reclassify up to join the team for the 2023-24 season, and that move has paid off big time. Missi has found a role within Baylor's system and turned into one of the best shot blockers in the conference. 

Missi ranks No. 24 in the most recent NBA Draft prospect rankings. It's possible that come this summer he works his way into the lottery conversation because of his defense. Ja'Kobe Walter was the talk of the town coming into the season, but it's clear that the program has two elite first-year players who could help the Bears make a deep tournament run. 

Missi made his first appearance in the Frosh Watch rankings earlier this week after scoring a game-high 21 points in a loss to Kansas. Missi scored a career-high 25 points against TCU last week. 

Stock down: Texas A&M back on the bubble

After recording its most impressive win of the season over Tennessee last weekend, Texas A&M lost on a buzzer-beater to Vanderbilt. That undoubtedly hurts the Aggies' overall résumé come Selection Sunday; coming into Tuesday's game, Vanderbilt ranked No. 235 in the NET.

Texas A&M is a No. 10 seed in CBS Sports' latest Bracketology update, but it could drop out of the field entirely after that Quad 3 loss to Vanderbilt. The Aggies are 5-4 against Quad 1 opponents and have wins over Tennessee and Kentucky in SEC play, but they have more work to do to guarantee a spot in the tournament.

Three of the next four games (at Alabama, Arkansas, at Tennessee and South Carolina) could make their chances. If Texas A&M can survive the gauntlet and pick up some quality wins, it will increase its chances of not having to sweat come Selection Sunday.