Home Sports 32 reasons to care about men’s hoops right now

32 reasons to care about men’s hoops right now

32 reasons to care about men’s hoops right now


Each year, college basketball regains national prominence just as the college football season ends and the NFL playoffs wind down.

While the die-hards have been following the sport throughout the season, the casual fans are just arriving and asking questions such as, “What did I miss?”

Well, a lot.

If we’re being honest, we can admit that men’s college basketball in 2023-24 doesn’t have a Zion Williamson or a Trae Young. And Caitlin Clark is clearly the biggest college basketball star, men’s or women’s, right now.

Still, men’s hoops is full of intriguing storylines, elite players, coaching milestones and fabulous title races. (Also, a lot of upsets.)

Don’t worry if you’re trying to catch up. We’re here to pull you back in.

Here are 32 reasons, one for each conference, to watch men’s college hoops this season:

Navigate to each league:

American | America East | ACC | ASUN | A-10| Big 12 | Big East | Big Sky | Big South | Big Ten | Big West | CAA | C-USA | Horizon | Ivy | MAAC | MAC | MEAC | MVC | MW | NEC | OVC | Pac-12 | Patriot | SEC | SoCon | Southland | SWAC | Summit | Sun Belt | WCC | WAC

American Athletic Conference

The budding MemphisFlorida Atlantic rivalry

In last season’s NCAA tournament, FAU started its Final Four journey with a 66-65 win over the Tigers via Nick Boyd’s game-winning floater with 2.5 seconds to play. Now, Penny Hardaway may have to beat FAU twice to secure his first AAC championship in his sixth season at Memphis. The Owls’ first season in the AAC, however, could also end with more dominance over Memphis, and the start of a new rivalry in men’s college basketball.

America East Conference

Vermont‘s ongoing dominance

The last time Vermont failed to win an America East championship (2015-16), Flo Rida’s “My House” was a hit on the Billboard Top 100. The Catamounts will aim for their eighth consecutive conference crown with an offense that shoots 3-pointers on nearly half of their field goal attempts. They’re simply fun to watch.

Atlantic Coast Conference

The conference of top bigs

Zach Edey is the front-runner to win national player of the year honors again, but the ACC is packed with the strongest collection of elite bigs. Clemson‘s PJ Hall (19.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.1 BPG) has emerged as an ACC player of the year candidate. And fifth-year star Armando Bacot (14.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG) hopes to avenge last season’s disastrous finish by leading North Carolina back to the Final Four. Duke‘s Kyle Filipowski (18.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG) is once again a projected NBA draft lottery pick. Wake Forest has extended its winning streak to nine games after Gonzaga transfer Efton Reid III (8.2 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG) gained his eligibility. And Miami‘s Norchad Omier (17.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG) is even better than he was as a member of last season’s Final Four team. Need we say more?

Atlantic Sun Conference

Meet the fastest team in America

Kennesaw State head coach Antoine Pettway has already put his stamp on the program in his first season. The former Alabama assistant leads a team ranked first in adjusted tempo on KenPom. This crew could win the ASUN title and make it back to the NCAA tournament with that, and high-volume 3-point shooting. In their recent loss to Indiana, the Owls finished with 35 3-point attempts in 40 minutes. For reference, just last week, the Golden State Warriors launched 36 3-pointers in their 48-minute game.



‘Hammer time!’ DaRon Holmes II throws down breakaway jam for Dayton

DaRon Holmes II picks off a pass on defense and takes it all the way for an emphatic dunk against Saint Louis.

Atlantic 10 Conference

DaRon Holmes II is one of America’s best players

The 6-foot-10 Dayton forward is making quite the case for that description, averaging 18.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 2.1 BPG. He has also connected on 44% of his 3-point attempts. In a recent win over Duquesne, he finished with 33 points (3-for-5 from beyond the arc) and 12 rebounds. Dayton, one of the best mid-majors in the country currently, also has one of the most exciting players in the country.



Rick Pitino’s colorful response to how much he hates losing

Rick Pitino tells reporters how much he hates losing after St. John’s falls to Creighton.

Big East Conference

It’s official: Rick Pitino is back

After his team’s loss to Creighton over the weekend, the St. John’s head coach said he wished he would “die of frostbite.” It’s clear Pitino has brought back the flamboyant news conferences that have made him one of the most polarizing coaches in the country. And with Pitino on the sideline, prepare for a show, win or lose. But, his team’s NCAA tournament aspirations are valid. Couple that with No. 1 UConn‘s mission to become the first back-to-back national champion since Florida (2006, 2007), makes the Big East exciting to watch.

Big Sky Conference

Eastern Washington might not miss again

OK, we’re exaggerating. Still, through their first set of league games, the Eagles shot 49% from 3. They’re top-15 nationally this season (39% from beyond the arc), so this isn’t a fluke. They’re just that good.

Big South Conference

High Point is chasing history

Ten years before the iPhone arrived, High Point made an NCAA tournament appearance (1997) — as a Division II team. The Panthers haven’t made it to the dance since. This season, however, Duke Miles (19.6 PPG) could lead High Point to its first league title since 2016, and its first-ever Division I NCAA tournament appearance.

Big 12 Conference

Unexpected early losses have made this race more competitive

Once Houston joined the league, it appeared that Kansas would be challenged as the perennial king in one of America’s toughest leagues. That may still happen, but the Big 12 race is more compelling than anyone could have imagined entering the season. Houston’s 1-2 start to league play and KU’s recent upset loss at UCF have put both teams in a tough spot early. This could open the door for Ja’Kobe Walter and Baylor to make a run to the top of the standings, or give sleepers such as Iowa State or Texas Tech room to crash. The Big 12 is always fun, but January’s developments guarantee it’ll be more so than expected.



No. 1 Purdue, No. 2 Houston go down on wild night of college basketball

Check out the top moments from Purdue’s loss to Nebraska and Houston’s loss to Iowa State.

Big Ten Conference

Greg Gard and Wisconsin don’t care about Purdue‘s dreams

Purdue has Zach Edey, the reigning Wooden Award winner and favorite to capture the award again. The Boilermakers have spent time as the No. 1 team in America with wins over Tennessee, Alabama, Arizona, Gonzaga, Illinois and Marquette. And it appeared they might go undefeated in the Big Ten.

That’s not the case. They’ve started 4-2, while the surprise undefeated team in Big Ten play is Wisconsin. The Badgers’ 5-0 start means Purdue will have to catch up to win a second Big Ten title in a row. The two teams play each other twice this season, meaning the Boilermakers have two chances to humble the Badgers. Another consideration for the league title race: Terrence Shannon Jr. — currently suspended by Illinois after an arrest on a rape charge — has sued the school for immediate reinstatement. Illinois is tied with Purdue and Indiana for second in the conference.

Big West Conference

Every school is a vacation destination

This could be a fierce race as Justin Hohn (14.0 PPG) and the UC Irvine Anteaters aim to hold off the rest of the conference. But let’s forget the on-court play for a second; this is a league full of incredible campuses in great locations. While you’re stuck at home in the cold this winter, the schools in this league will spend time in Hawai’i, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and other warm destinations. And we’ll watch it all because we’re jealous, honestly.

Coastal Athletic Association

Jyare Davis is a rare big man who actually makes his free throws

Fine, Davis is 6-foot-7, so he’s no giant. But he is a center for Delaware and he has made 88% of his free throw attempts this season. That’s tenth in America among all players with at least 75 attempts entering the week. Big men often struggle at the free throw line, but Davis is clearly proving the trend wrong.

Conference USA

UTEP giveth, and taketh, often

Joe Golding’s squad forces turnovers on more than one-quarter of its opponents’ possessions, a top-five mark in America per KenPom. It also commits turnovers (22.8% of its offensive possessions) at nearly the same rate. It’s like spending your whole paycheck every Friday. That’s how UTEP rolls, and it keeps this league interesting.

Horizon League

Greg Kampe’s 40th season at Oakland

When Greg Kampe was in his first head-coaching season (1984-85), the price of a McDonald’s cheeseburger was 50 cents and the average home cost $79,000. He’s still at it and is the longest-tenured coach in men’s college basketball. And, this team is doing well enough that this special season could end with a conference title.



Xaivian Lee Drops 33 Points in Princeton’s Win Over Harvard – Via Ivy League

Sophomore guard Xaivian Lee scored a career-high 33 points in Princeton’s 89-58 win over Harvard.

Ivy League

Princeton might bust brackets again

Last season, the Tigers beat Arizona and Missouri on their way to the Sweet 16, where they lost to Creighton. The Tigers look like Cinderellas again. They entered the week with a 14-1 record and a top-30 NET ranking. Guard Xaivian Lee (18.1 PPG, 40% from beyond the arc) might be the school’s next hero in March, too.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Saint Peter’s could return to the NCAA tournament

Bashir Mason finished 14-18 in his first season with the Peacocks, the program that beat Kentucky, Purdue and others during an Elite Eight run in the 2022 NCAA tournament. In his second season, Mason’s team has won its first five conference games. The Peacocks might go dancing again just two years after one of the greatest runs in recent college basketball history.

Mid-American Conference

There’s a(nother) future Power 5 star on a roster here

In this transfer portal era, the MAC has produced elite players who have ventured to Power 5 programs. It’s an unfortunate development for the schools that have to replace those talents. But it also means the league’s key players get a shot to play at a higher level. See: Mark Sears (20.3 PPG, 49%), a former Ohio star who’s now leading Alabama, And RayJ Dennis, last season’s MAC POY who has been a standout at Baylor this season.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

LeVelle Moton’s impact on and off the court

The North Carolina Central head coach, is chasing his fifth MEAC title and fifth NCAA tournament appearance this season. But his impact is even more important off the floor, where he hosts a dinner for single mothers and also recently helped develop an affordable housing complex, both in the Raleigh, N.C., area.

Missouri Valley Conference

Xavier Johnson wants the national scoring crown

Entering the week, the Southern Illinois star (44% from the 3-point line) was averaging 23.8 PPG, the No. 2 mark in America behind Denver‘s Tommy Bruner (25.4 PPG). Johnson has had the more surprising rise between the two, though. He has stepped up since averaging just 7.0 PPG last season.

Mountain West Conference

More bids than the ACC and Pac-12?

Right now, there are six teams (Utah State, Colorado State, San Diego State, New Mexico, Nevada, Boise State) in the top 45 of the NET rankings. The ACC has four, and the Pac-12 has two. Jaedon LeDee (21.6 PPG) and SDSU aren’t the only stars in a league that could make more noise than some of their Power 5 peers in the postseason.

Northeast Conference

Finally, Merrimack is eligible for the NCAA tournament

Last year, the Warriors watched Fairleigh Dickinson enjoy the spoils of its upset over then-No. 1 seed Purdue, even though Merrimack had defeated the Knights in the NEC tournament title game. But, Merrimack was in its last year of its four-year transition to Division I athletics, and according to NCAA rules was ineligible for the tournament. That changes this season. The Warriors haven’t slid since joining Division I, so we very well could see them among the field of 68.

Ohio Valley Conference

Western Illinois could win a league title in Year 1

The Leathernecks — a nickname given to members of the Marine Corps — could win the OVC crown in their first season in their new league. Entering the week, the former Summit League members had a ridiculous offensive rebounding rate of 48.9%, meaning they grabbed nearly half of their missed shots, and a 3-point clip of 41%, both in league play per KenPom.

Pac-12 Conference

The journey of Bronny James is still the main story

Yes, there are other storylines in the final season of this league. Arizona is trying to bounce back after two early losses in league play. Colorado freshman Cody Williams is a projected draft lottery pick. James’ teammates are interesting, too: Boogie Ellis is on pace to earn all-Pac-12 honors and Isaiah Collier is another projected lottery pick — though both have dealt with recent injuries, affecting USC‘s tournament chances.

But James’ journey is the most monumental storyline in men’s college basketball. The 6-foot-3 guard has had his highs — see: his 15-point performance against Oregon State on Dec. 30 — and a series of lows — he finished 0-for-7 in the loss at Colorado on Saturday. His father, NBA star LeBron James, said recently that his eldest son could play on an NBA roster right now. But Bronny hasn’t done anything at this level, yet, to prove those aspirations. Either way, his is a remarkable story: competing as a freshman months after he suffered cardiac arrest during a team workout. The next two months will determine if he’ll get a chance to play at the next level, alongside his father.

Patriot League

Matt Langel might be your team’s next coach

Langel loves Colgate. In his 13th season with the Raiders, he’s pursuing his fifth NCAA tournament appearance and sixth league crown. He’s also only 46 years old. Although he recently signed an extension through 2030, another strong season might convince Langel (126-78 in the Patriot League) to consider a move to a high-major program that wants that level of success.

Southeastern Conference

A league of stars

The SEC is in a fight with the Big 12 for the honor of being the best league in America. But it’s arguably more talented, top-to-bottom. Kentucky is so deep that John Calipari brings two of his best players (NBA prospects Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham) off the bench. Johni Broome (15.4 PPG) is the leader of a top-15 Auburn squad. Tennessee star Dalton Knecht cracked the first round of ESPN’s latest NBA mock draft. Wade Taylor IV scored 31 points in Texas A&M‘s 97-92 overtime win vs. Kentucky on Saturday. Alabama‘s Mark Sears has made, no typo, 49% of his 3-point attempts. Meechie Johnson (17.1 PPG) leads emerging sleeper South Carolina.

Anytime you watch an SEC game this season, there’s a good chance you’ll see an outstanding college and possible future NBA player.



UNC Greensboro Spartans vs. Samford Bulldogs: Full Highlights

UNC Greensboro Spartans vs. Samford Bulldogs: Full Highlights

Southern Conference

The country’s longest winning streak belongs to… Achor Achor and Samford

Entering the week, the Bulldogs hadn’t lost a game since Nov. 10 (at VCU). They’ve won 15 in a row since. Led by Achor (15.5 PPG, 1.7 BPG), Samford could win back-to-back conference crowns this season. Another impressive stat: Since Dec. 28, 2022, Samford has amassed a 30-6 record.

Southland Conference

Lamar could have a Disney-like finish

Alvin Brooks was a guard for the Cardinals in the late 1970s. Now he’s in his third season as head coach, and has already matched last season’s win total. Picked to finish ninth in the league’s preseason poll, Lamar entered this week in a tie for first place. The school hopes to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012.

Summit League

A private school in Minnesota has big goals

In its third season as a Division I program, former D-III power St. Thomas-Minnesota could win the Summit League crown. But this is just the beginning for the school in St. Paul, which has raised millions of dollars for a new arena and could challenge its Big Ten neighbor Minnesota for local talent in the future.

Sun Belt Conference

James Madison has gone from the bubble to battling for the league title

After opening its season with a historic win at Michigan State, JMU secured NCAA tournament bubble consideration by winning its first 14 games. A 3-2 start in league play seems like it might end those hopes, however. A Dukes squad once ranked as high as 19th in the AP top 25 poll will need a turnaround in the coming weeks to win the Sun Belt title and the auto-bid.

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Kevin Johnson gets another chance

Following a rocky final season at Centenary in 2004-05, Kevin Johnson had to wait nearly 20 years to get another head-coaching job. Thus far, he has made the most of his opportunity. The first-year head coach at Southern leads the top defensive team in the league. Under Johnson, the Jaguars could win their first conference tournament title since 2016.

Western Athletic Conference

Grand Canyon has the best student section in America

The Havocs, the apt nickname for GCU’s student section, is one of the most coordinated, energized and massive student sections you’ll ever encounter. It’s the reason Power 5 schools balk at the idea of visiting the Lopes every season, because it provides Bryce Drew’s squad with a massive advantage. And now the students are back from their winter break and ready to help their team get back to the NCAA tournament — and go further. The Grand Canyon in-game experience is unlike anything.

West Coast Conference

Gonzaga‘s run might be over

Mark Few has been fortunate to replace his most talented players in recent years. But he hasn’t found an immediate answer for the loss of Drew Timme and Julian Strawther this season. The result? Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and even Santa Clara — which snapped a 26-game losing streak to the Zags last week — are in the mix for the WCC crown. Gonzaga could still find its way to the top of the conference, but with the constant rumors of Gonzaga considering a move to another league, it’s unclear how long it’ll stay in the WCC, even with its new partnership with Oregon State and Washington State.


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