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Andy Katz | Correspondent | January 7, 2019

9 college basketball conference champions predicted at the midway point of the season

Michigan is No. 1 as Seton Hall and Nebraska rise in Andy Katz's Power 36

Now that conference play is in full swing across the country, here's a reminder of how the season has gone so far in some confences.

The American

The favorite: Houston

The contenders: Cincinnati, UCF, Temple and Tulsa.

The spoiler: Memphis.

The Tigers host the American tournament. Don’t be shocked if Memphis makes a deep run and causes trouble.

The wins to remember: Houston beating LSU; Tulsa knocking off Kansas State.

The best-case scenario: There is separation with the top four, pushing the American to produce multiple bids and possibly taking spots that would have gone elsewhere (see: Pac-12).

MORE: 33 predictions for the rest of the season

The A-10

The favorite: None.

The league is wide open. VCU’s win at Texas stands out but the best win still is likely Saint Louis beating Seton Hall.

The worst-case scenario: The league gets only one bid. The league is balanced enough that teams could very well beat each other up quite a bit.


The favorites: Virginia and Duke.

The contenders: North Carolina, NC State, Florida State and Virginia Tech.

The sleeper: Syracuse. The Orange haven’t played even close to their potential this season. That’s why there is hope that they could turn this season around in the ACC where high-profile wins are plentiful.

Don’t sleep on: Clemson and Louisville. The Tigers and Cardinals have the talent to get bids, but are looking like they will sweat out Selection Sunday.

The win that resonated: Duke destroying Kentucky to open the season and NC State knocking off Auburn.

The Big 12

The favorite: Kansas

The contenders: Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma and Iowa State

The sleeper: Kansas State. The Wildcats — if they ever get healthy and Dean Wade can be a major factor — could still be a tough out.

The team to watch: Texas. The Longhorns have looked like a top-15 team and one that could miss the field.

The win to remember: Kansas beating Tennessee in overtime in New York.

The Big East

The favorite: Marquette.

The contenders: Villanova, St. John’s and Seton Hall.

The sleeper: Providence. The Friars can make a late run once A.J. Reeves returns.

The puzzling team: Butler. The Bulldogs have been hard to figure all season.

The non-conference wins to remember: Seton Hall beating Kentucky in overtime and winning at Maryland; Marquette knocking off Buffalo and Kansas State and Providence winning at Texas.

The best-case scenario: The league still gets five teams in the field. Six seems like a reach this season.

The Big Ten

The favorite: Michigan.

The contenders: Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

The sleepers: Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State.

Don’t dismiss: Purdue and Maryland. Carsen Edwards gives the Boilermakers a chance and the Terps have tremendous upside that will evolve enough by March to be a factor.

The outlier: Northwestern. The Wildcats have played well, but haven’t been able to cross the finish line in key games.

Best moments: Michigan winning at Villanova, crushing North Carolina; Ohio State opening Cincinnati’s arena with a win; Michigan State winning in Las Vegas; Wisconsin beating NC State and avenging a loss to Xavier; Iowa winning the 2K Classic in New York; Nebraska beating Seton Hall and rival Creighton; Indiana beating Butler at the buzzer in Indianapolis.

Best-case scenario: The Big Ten gets 10 bids. It’s not implausible.

MORE: The can't-miss basketball games in January

The Pac-12

The favorite: Arizona State

Contenders: Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, Washington.

The unknown: Bol Bol’s status. The Oregon freshman averaged 21 points in nine games but he’s been out with a lower leg injury. If he returns, then that’s a game changer for the Ducks in the race.

The new star: Luguentz Dort. He’s averaging 18.1 and 5.4 rebounds for the Sun Devils. He can and will take over games for ASU.

Don’t sleep on: UCLA. I know this sounds crazy, even with the firing of Steve Alford. But the Bruins do have talent and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bruins cause problems. I’m not banking on it, but they could still figure it out. The Bruins can still be a pest due to the talent. Can’t dismiss them from causing problems in the league.

The worst-case scenario: The Pac-12 gets one bid.

The best-case scenario: ASU wins the league and loses in the final to ensure two bids.

The best win: ASU knocking off then-No. 1 Kansas.

The worst loss: Too many to count.


The favorite: Tennessee.

The contender: Kentucky.

The ones to watch: Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State.

Making a late play: Missouri and Florida

Will be a factor in some sort: Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Georgia.

Wait isn’t that nearly the whole league? Yes. Alabama is still hard to figure. Texas A&M and South Carolina are really the only two teams that probably don’t have a shot for the postseason at this juncture.

Best win: Tennessee over Gonzaga.

The range: The SEC could get as many as eight bids or as few as five. But the top five could all have high seed with good odds to win first weekend games.

MORE: Andy Katz's Power 36 rankings


The favorite: Gonzaga

The contenders: None.

The bid possibilities: Loyola-Marymount, San Francisco, Saint Mary’s and San Diego.

The good numbers: LMU, USF and San Diego have all played the power rankings well. Knock off Gonzaga once — one of them — and their chances will increase dramatically.

The player who could help be a spoiler: Yoeli Childs of BYU is a scoring machine and scored 31 points in three-straight games against Weber State, Utah State and Utah.

Bonus Predictions 

The next UMBC?

Stony Brook: The Seawolves still need to win the America East to get a bid, but Stony Brook has wins at Northern Iowa, South Carolina, Rhode Island and GW. It may not scare anyone, but Stony Brook won’t be fazed in a first round. Oh, and Stony Brook shouldn’t be a 16 if it gets in with its non-conference record of 12-3.

The CAA race

Hofstra and Charleston have won nine in a row. But Northeastern may have the most talent. The winner of this league will have a chance to win a first-round game.

MORE: College basketball schedule, TV information

Keep an eye on CUSA

North Texas and Louisiana Tech have raced out to outstanding starts, but Western Kentucky beat Wisconsin at home and should be considered a strong favorite to get the bid.

Ivy League

The race for the four-team Ivy League playoff will be intense.

Penn beat Nova.

Princeton beat Arizona State.

Brown beat San Diego State.

Harvard beat Saint Mary’s and has the most talent.

Yale opened the season by beating Cal and beat Miami.

One of these five isn’t going to be in the playoff.


Will this be the year the MAC gets two bids for the first time since 1999? I’m not ready to say yes — yet. But there is a chance. Buffalo is going to make the field with wins at West Virginia and Syracuse and a 12-1 record. But Toledo and Kent State could make life interesting in the MAC. If there is separation as in all three have stellar records and one of the two ends up beating Buffalo in the MAC final then yes it will happen!!!!

Will Loyola Chicago make it back to the Dance?

Don’t dismiss the Ramblers. But the Valley has depth, and Drake, Indiana State, Southern Illinois, Bradley and Illinois State have as much of a shot to win the league as Loyola. Unfortunately, this league won’t get two bids — no matter what occurs.

Will Nevada run the table?

The Wolf Pack are so far and above the rest of the Mountain West this looks like its Gonzaga’s run in the WCC. But Utah State is probably the only team that could rock the Wolf Pack.

Prediction: Nevada does it and repeats what Saint Joseph’s did in 2004 and enters the conference tournament undefeated. The Hawks lost to Xavier in the A-10 tournament and were still a No. 1 seed.

MORE: The toughest tests for the remaining undefeated teams

The conference title game that should happen in the OVC

Belmont vs. Murray State. These are the two best teams in the Valley and each are talented enough to win a first-round game.

The race to watch: The Southern Conference.

UNC Greensboro, Wofford, Furman and East Tennessee State could all lay claim to the title.

Best win: Furman winning at Villanova.

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