As the college basketball season continues, teams have begun to show their identity, emerging into tiers of national title contenders, bubble teams, dark-horses, and a number of other levels. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi sends fans into a frenzy with every edition of bracketology, as fans desperately hope for their squad’s inclusion in the latest projection, or perhaps a higher seed. Rather than look at everything on a broad level, this article will offer a quick breakdown of each Power-6 conference with title favorites, surprise contenders, duds, and teams to watch among the topics covered. Skip to your team’s conference or browse through to see where things stand within each conference. The categories are based off performance so far and expected performance for the rest of the year given each team’s schedule. Our first Mid-Major report will be coming shortly.
Title Favorite: Duke
The Blue Devils are possibly the best team in the country, with only one shocking home loss separating them from unbeaten status. They’re the clear favorite in the ACC.
The Best of the Rest: Louisville, Florida State
These two squads are the only team not named Duke with more than 3% chance at winning the title. In our recent NCAA Basketball roundtable, Louisville was one of my Final Four picks, and Florida State was my ACC champion pick. I really like both these teams and their odds to challenge the Blue Devils.
Darkhorse Title Pick: Virginia
The defending national champs have not been as elite as they’ve been in recent years, but they’re still a bona fide contender in the ACC and have a shot at a decent seeding in the NCAA tournament with a strong performance down the stretch.
Title Unlikely, Could make a run: NC State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame
All three of these teams have shown a lot of negatives, but they have reason for hope. Notre Dame can compete with anyone with their defense, NC State nearly took down Auburn on the road, and Virginia Tech have road wins over #15 Michigan State and Syracuse.
Below Average: Syracuse, UNC, Clemson, Pitt, Miami
The Worst: Wake Forest, Boston College
Title Favorite: Kansas
Despite their recent home loss to Baylor, the Jayhawks still have the best odds to win the Big 12, and they strike me as the more talented team with a more stable foundation; the Bears have won a lot of tight defensive struggles, which seems less sustainable.
The Best of the Rest: Baylor, West Virginia
West Virginia was my Big 12 title pick in our recent roundtable, and they have a lot of upside, and Baylor has undoubtedly performed extremely well this year, culminating in their recent upset of the Jayhawks.
Darkhorse Title Pick: Texas Tech
The defending national runners-up don’t look like favorites in the Big 12, but much like Virginia in the ACC, they’re very capable of making a run, as they demonstrated last March. Don’t count them out.
Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Oklahoma, Iowa State, TCU
The Sooners, Cyclones, and Horned Frogs all have definite NCAA tournament potential, but with a loaded top of the conference, they may be on the outside looking in of the Big 12 picture.
Below Average: Oklahoma State, Texas
The Worst: Kansas State
Title Favorites: Butler, Seton Hall
Both of these teams hover in the 24-26% chance to win the Big East in the latest projections, so they split the title favorite category in the Big East. Butler has only a 1-point loss to Baylor on their resume, while Seton Hall is unbeaten in Big East play and has looked very impressive doing so.
The Best of the Rest: Villanova
The Wildcats are definitely in the running for the title and got a couple of votes to do so in our roundtable. Their win over Kansas was a statement, but a loss to Marquette have kept them out of the Big East lead.
Darkhorse Title Picks: Marquette, Creighton
Marquette has been very inconsistent, but they definitely show potential as evidenced in their 81-70 win over Villanova. Creighton handled Marquette a few weeks ago and boast road wins over #23 Texas Tech and conference rival Xavier.
Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Georgetown, Xavier
The Hoyas have flashed a lot of potential, winning five straight by double digits heading into Big East play, but they are just 1-3 in conference games so far. Xavier has suffered a letdown after a big rivalry win over Cincinnati; the Musketeers are just 3-4 since that game, including a 1-3 Big East mark.
Below Average: Providence, St. Johns
The Worst: DePaul
Title Favorites: Michigan State
Until their recent dud against Purdue, the Spartans looked to be on a quick rise back towards the top of the rankings. After struggling early, they’ve turned it on, led by Cassius Winston. They’re undoubtedly the team to beat in the Big 10, especially given Ohio State’s struggles.
The Best of the Rest: Ohio State, Maryland
I apparently really didn’t like picking favorites to win conferences, as I picked Maryland to take the Big 10. They’ve definitely got a chance and so do the Buckeyes, assuming they turn it around; they were a Top-5 team before sinking into a four-game skid that left them in last place in the conference.
Darkhorse Picks: Purdue, Michigan
Honestly, I wouldn’t bet on either of these teams, but Purdue is absolutely incredible on their home court, which they proved with a 71-42 beatdown of Michigan State, and the Wolverines absolutely dominated Gonzaga on the road, handing the #1 team their only loss.
Title Unlikely, Could Make A Run: Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois
Again, I haven’t found these teams extremely impressive, but that’s what this category is about. They each have upside, and could definitely find themselves in the NCAA tournament with a solid conference performance.
Below Average: Rutgers, Indiana, Penn State, Minnesota
The Worst: Nebraska, Northwestern
Title Favorite: Arizona
The Wildcats have been very impressive, despite their recent two-game skid. Prior to that, they dominated Arizona State 75-47, and came within five points of upsetting both Gonzaga and Baylor.
The Best of the Rest: Oregon, Colorado
Colorado won a head-to-head matchup with the Ducks and they were my title pick in the Pac 12. The Ducks are ranked in the top 10 and just earned a big win over Arizona.
Darkhorse Title Picks: Stanford, Washington
Wouldn’t bring this pick to Vegas, as neither of these teams have inspired confidence on a consistent basis, but both the Cardinal and Huskies could make a run in a tournament if they got a favorable draw.
Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Oregon State
The Beavers are the only team to make this category, largely due to their recent big-time upset of Arizona, as they dominated the Wildcats 82-65. They could be a fun underdog team to check out in March.
Below Average: USC
The Worst: Utah, UCLA, Washington State, Cal
Title Favorites: Auburn, Kentucky
This conference is fairly wide open, but three of our four roundtable contributors picked one of these two squads to take home the title (guess who didn’t?!). The Tigers are still unbeaten and a controversial foul call away from riding a winning streak approaching 30 games while Kentucky has bounced back from a shaky start with an unbeaten start to SEC play.
The Best of the Rest: LSU, Florida, Arkansas
In terms of title contenders, I think the SEC is the deepest conference. I could definitely see any of these three teams taking home the crown, and Florida was my pick. The Razorbacks have suffered just one conference loss – a road 2-point loss to LSU – while the Tigers are unbeaten in SEC play and have been impressive minus a weird home loss to Eastern Tennessee State.
Darkhorse Pick: Missouri
They’re only 1-2 in SEC play, but that one win was a 12-point win over Florida, and the Tigers also boast a win over #24 Illinois on their resume.
Title Unlikely, Could Make A Run: Alabama, Tennessee
The Crimson Tide and Volunteers have both had their moments, with Tennessee recently beating Missouri on the road while Alabama pushed both Florida and Kentucky to the brink on the road.
Below Average: Mississippi State, Georgia
The Worst: Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt