As well roll into January that can only mean one thing -- we're about to launch full swing into conference play.
For some teams, non-conference play was a wake-up call. Teams that many thought would easily stroll into the NCAA tournament come March will now have to pick up the pace in league play.
Through Jan. 5, the CBSSports.com college basketball crew will be putting the spotlight on every major league, letting you know what you may have missed and what do you need to watch out for going forward.
The ACC is going to be great soon with the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. But is it great right now? Not really. North Carolina remains a national title contender, Duke is Duke (despite Wednesday's loss at Temple) and Virginia is a surprise. But the league's other nine teams are either unproven or proven to be average or bad, and that's not a good look for a conference that prides itself on playing a high level of basketball. Read More >>
- Atlantic 10
For a while, it appeared the Atlantic 10 might finish without a conference champ. Xavier got off to a sizzling start with nine straight victories. Then came The Brawl -- followed by the Fall. Xavier suspended Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells after the fight with cross-town rival Cincinnati -- and it all fell apart. Chris Mack's team lost three of its next four, including setbacks to Oral Roberts and Hawaii, which gave hope to everyone else in the league. Now Rick Majerus' Saint Louis team, which has only one loss thus far, may have a shot. Temple has struggled at times, but the Owls could challenge. And Saint Joseph's finally appears back in contention after two brutal campaigns. Read More >>
- Big 12
The Big 12 title is up for grabs. Kansas has been king of the league for most of the past decade, but this season the Jayhawks look vulnerable. No one can match the talent and length of Scott Drew's Baylor squad, but the Bears haven't been the most impressive team in the conference thus far -- that honor belongs to Missouri and new coach Frank Haith. But don't count out Kansas State as long as Frank Martin has this group of somewhat anonymous Wildcats buying into his brand of basketball -- which means playing hard. Read More >>
- Big East
When compared to last season, the Big East might look down this year. It's not going to be in the mix for 10 or 11 NCAA tournament bids, and the bottom of the league is not very strong. With that said, don't underestimate the conference too much; it has at least three legitimate top 10 teams and six teams who should receive top-four seeds in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
- Big Ten
How many teams can enter league play these days and legitimately say they have eight teams in the equation for an NCAA tournament bid? Probably just one, and that's the Big Ten. After Ohio State, there's plenty of depth in this conference, which has established itself as the premiere league in the country this season. Read More >>
- Conference USA
Though Memphis is a disappointment, it's still the best team in Conference USA by a wide margin. But don't take my word for it. Take Ken Pomeroy's. His invaluable site (KenPom.com) still has Memphis ranked 31st and projected to be favored in every game it plays the rest of the way. So that 8-5 record is likely to turn into something like 26-8 on Selection Sunday (barring serious injuries or notable suspensions, the latter of which is always a possibility at Memphis). So Memphis will win C-USA. The real question is whether C-USA can put two teams in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
- Horizon League
It doesn't seem likely that the Horizon will produce a national finalist for the third year in a row, but that doesn't mean the conference has taken a huge fall. Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee have played well during non-conference play, and the league has had a few marquee clips against BCS-league teams. And what about Butler, the aforementioned two-time national finalist? The Bulldogs are turning things around as we enter conference play. But the rest of the league won't let Brad Stevens' troops waltz to a yet another Horizon title. Read More >>
- Missouri Valley
It's been a few years since the Valley was this good, even though the bottom part of this one (like most leagues) has a few bad teams. The race to win the league should be among four teams. For whatever reason, MVC clubs capture the hope of many in the tournament. Creighton, Northern Iowa, Bradley, Southern Illinois are all schools that have had big March moments. Two of the aforementioned can and should get into the Big Dance this year. Read More >>
- Mountain West
It's better than the Pac-12, and the case could be made it's the fourth-best collection of teams in college hoops. There isn't one group that's even flirting with .500. For a non-BCS conference, that's pretty unexpected and really good. And its success so far goes much deeper than Vegas' defeat of UNC back in November and Steve Fisher's insistence on looking like he teaches grad-level lit classes. Read More >>
The Pac-12 has become the rebellious teenager that gets in its own way and is hurtling toward a life with no future. Here we are again having the same discussion we’ve been having the past few years. Nothing seems to be changing. This league is putrid yet again, and where’s the hope? Not an overstatement: Three Pac-12 teams making the NCAA tournament will be a genuine achievement. Read More >>
Some fans take joy in the fact that John Calipari has never won a national title. If you're one of those, you might be in trouble. Kentucky really might do it this year. The Wildcats are big and strong and long and talented. They have shooters. They have shot-blockers. They've got everything you need to win a national championship, and they are, right now, the favorites out in Las Vegas. Read More >>
- West Coast
Outside of the six BCS-affiliated conferences, the No. 7 spot in league rankings is up for grabs. Why not the West Coast Conference? With three legitimate threats to win a game in the NCAA tournament, the WCC has as good of an argument as anyone. Moreover, with some of the non-conference wins the bottom half of the league picked up in November, the quality victories are there as well. Read More >>