2024 Charleston vs Stony Brook - Men's

Mid-Major Power Rankings: Thrilling Conference Games Set The Tone For 2024

Mid-Major Power Rankings: Thrilling Conference Games Set The Tone For 2024

The first full week of conference play throughout college basketball featured a variety of thrilling finishes to impact the Mid-Major Power Rankings.

Jan 8, 2024 by Kyle Kensing
Mid-Major Power Rankings: Thrilling Conference Games Set The Tone For 2024

Conference play is often referred to as basketball's second season, in part for taking on its own complexion independent of anything that may have transpired through November and December. 

League competition began before January's first week in some conferences, but the new year marked the first week in which every league played. And the first full week produced no shortage of noteworthy developments, starting in the top-heavy Mountain West. 

A conference featuring four of the this week's FloHoops Mid-Major Power Rankings top five, and five entrants among the top seven, the MW exhibited the highs and lows inherent with playing in a stacked league — and that was just in Colorado State's two games. 

The Rams held off New Mexico last Tuesday, 76-68, after the Lobos cut into a 17-point deficit over the final five minutes. Isaiah Stevens continued to assert himself as one of the nation's best offensive playmakers with 18 points and eight assists, while Patrick Cartier's 21 points set the pace. 

"We were not perfect; you're never going to be," Colorado State coach Niko Medved said in his postgame press conference. "But our guys did a lot of really good things tonight." 

CSU then had to turn around on Saturday and travel to Utah State's Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, a venue where opponents need to play as close to perfect as possible to escape with a win. 

"Spectrum magic is real," Aggies guard Josh Uduje said of USU's home venue. "Great [Osobor] and I were told that before we ever played a game here, and we saw that tonight." 

Uduje credited Utah State's raucous crowd for helping spark a 10-0 run that was the catalyst for the Aggies' 77-72 win over Colorado State. After making its presence known in the stands, the Spectrum crowd's presence spilled onto the floor in the postgame celebration. 

There may not be a hotter team in college basketball than the Aggies, and few players producing quite like Osobor. His 20-point, 14-rebound double-double led the way in an emphatic win for Utah State's March Madness resume. 

The Aggies' incredible win streak extends back to their championship run at the Cayman Islands Classic over Thanksgiving weekend. Wins there over Akron and Stephen F. Austin contribute to an impressive six victories over teams ranked No. 121 or better per KenPom.com overall metrics, including recent victories over fellow FloHoops Power Rankings entrants San Francisco and Colorado State. 


Utah State is now up to No. 3 in the Power Rankings, but San Diego State leads the stacked Mountain West at No. 2. The Aztecs are winners of six straight, including four in a row against Div. I opponents by double-digit point margins after conference romps vs. Fresno State and UNLV. 

"We have a culture that's established," San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said following Saturday's 72-61 defeat of UNLV. "People often talk about their culture over a year or two. We've been here for 25 years. That's what culture is."

Last year's national runners-up face a couple of road tests this week, traveling to face a dangerous San Jose State bunch before a matinee showdown with New Mexico on Saturday. 

While this season continues the quarter-century development of San Diego State's culture, other programs are taking their first steps toward establishing their identities. The first full conference week included the first-ever Div. I league win for newcomer Le Moyne, which took down last March's premier Cinderella, Fairleigh Dickinson. 

The Dolphins' 74-63 win on the road welcomed them to the Northeast Conference in style. 

Every conference win is a win worth celebrating, and especially wins on the road in league. For reigning Coastal Athletic Association champion Charleston, which opened CAA play with defeats of Hofstra and Stony Brook, road victories proved especially meaningful. 


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Hofstra shared the CAA regular-season crown with the Cougars a year ago, while a much improved Stony Brook team demonstrated the challenge that comes with playing on the road in conference. The Seawolves jumped to a 15-point first-half lead behind strong performances from Aaron Clarke and Tyler Stephenson-Moore.

 Stephenson-Moore reached 1,000 points in the opening half on a spectacular dunk. 

But Charleston's championship mettle showed up in a second-half rally that extends the Cougars' winning streak to seven games. They climb to No. 12 in this week's Power Rankings on the strength of a past month that includes wins over Liberty and Saint Joseph's. 

Games to Watch Jan. 8-14 

Monday, Jan. 8 

Northeastern at Monmouth, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT 

Tuesday, Jan. 9

Columbia at Cornell, 6 p.m./3 p.m. 

VCU at George Mason, 7 p.m./4 p.m. 

Richmond at Loyola Chicago, 8 p.m./5 p.m. 

Colorado State at Boise State, 9 p.m./6 p.m. 

Wednesday, Jan. 10 

Purdue Fort Wayne at Youngstown State, 6:30 p.m./3:30 p.m. 

UNC Asheville at High Point, 7 p.m./4 p.m. 

La Salle at UMass, 7 p.m./4 p.m. 

Indiana State at Drake, 8 p.m./5 p.m. 

Evansville at Bradley, 8 p.m./5 p.m. 

Thursday, Jan. 11

FAU at Tulane, 7 p.m./4 p.m. 

Monmouth at UNC Wilmington, 7 p.m./4 p.m. 

UNC Greensboro at Samford, 8 p.m./5 p.m. 

Radford at Longwood, 8 p.m./5 p.m. 

Gonzaga at Santa Clara, 9:30 p.m./6:30 p.m. 

Long Beach State at UC San Diego, 10 p.m./7 p.m. 

UC Irvine at Hawai'i,, 12 midnight/9 p.m. 

Friday, Jan. 12 

Dayton at Duquesne, 7 p.m./4 p.m. 

Saturday, Jan. 13

Belmont at Indiana State, 2 p.m./11 a.m. 

Radford at Winthrop, 2 p.m./11 a.m. 

Longwood at UNC Asheville, 2 p.m./11 a.m. 

San Diego State at New Mexico, 2 p.m./11 a.m. 

Davidson at George Washington, 2 p.m./11 a.m. 

Appalachian State at James Madison, 4 p.m./1 p.m. 

Loyola Chicago at Saint Joseph's, 4 p.m./1 p.m. 

Monmouth at Charleston, 4:30 p.m./1:30 p.m. 

Saint Mary's at Santa Clara, 7 p.m./4 p.m. 

Drake at Southern Illinois, 8 p.m./5 p.m. 

Tarleton at Grand Canyon, 8 p.m./5 p.m. 

Long Beach State at UC Santa Barbara, 10 p.m./7 p.m. 

Sunday, Jan. 14

 UAB at FAU 12 noon, 9 a.m.  

Memphis at Wichita State, 1 p.m./10 a.m. 

Liberty at Louisiana Tech, 3 p.m./12 noon 

Delaware at UNC Wilmington, 4 p.m./1 p.m. 

Jan. 8 Top 15

1. Memphis 

The Tigers remain No. 1 after surviving a serious test from American Athletic Conference counterpart SMU. Jahvon Quinerly's go-ahead 3-pointer late elevated Memphis to a 62-59 win, their second one-score win to start AAC competition after a 75-72 win at Tulsa earlier in the week. 

2. San Diego State   

The red-hot Aztecs look every bit the part of Final Four hopefuls in recent weeks. Their first Mountain West Conference games away from Montezuma Mesa in the coming week will reveal plenty about their status as championship front-runners. 

3. Utah State 

With a 13-game winning streak to its credit, and Great Osobor continuing to prove himself to be one of the nation's best big men, Utah State cannot be overlooked any longer. The Aggies are contenders not just in the Mountain West, but a name to remember come March Madness. 

4. Colorado State 

Despite its loss at Utah State, Colorado State remains ranked in the top 20 of the Associated Press Poll, and deservedly so. No team played a more demanding schedule in the first week of 2024, and the Rams looked strong both in victory and defeat. 

5. New Mexico 

Although its long winning streak came to an end at Colorado State, New Mexico remains in the top five with a nice rebound win over Wyoming, 77-60. The Lobos get a huge opportunity this coming Saturday when San Diego State visits The Pit. 

6. Gonzaga 

Non-conference play may not have gone quite as well as coach Mark Few would want, but Gonzaga opened West Coast Conference competition reestablishing itself as the clear heavyweight with blowouts of Pepperdine and San Diego. 

A road trip to face a talented Santa Clara team, which has played quality competition tough all season, offers the Bulldogs their first real challenge in the WCC. 

7. Nevada

Nevada continues to stack up wins, picking up its seventh straight in a 72-57 defeat of Fresno State to kick off Mountain West play. The Wolfpack have won five in a row by eight points or more, including an 88-75 defeat of TCU in the Diamond Head Classic before Christmas, and beat KenPom top 100 opponent Weber State by 17 on Dec. 13. 

Keep an eye on Nevada's Jordan Lucas, who has scored in double-figures every game this season. His 17 points against Fresno State ended a run of four straight posting at least 20, but he shot 7-of-12 and 3-of-3 from 3-point range in the conference rout. 

8. Grand Canyon 

Another game to file under evidence of how hard winning on the road in conference can be, Grand Canyon needed a second-half rally to get past Utah Tech on Saturday, 75-65. Gabe McGlothan's 23 points bumped his scoring average up to 13.9 points per game, while Tyon Grant-Foster was right on line with his season average of 20.7 points a contest. 

Grant-Foster is making a strong early case to become the first Antelope to win Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. 

9. FAU 

It's been a tumultuous few weeks for FAU. After the 2023 Final Four participants beat Arizona in double-overtime in the game of the season thus far just before Christmas, the Owls dropped decisions to Florida Gulf Coast and to reigning College Basketball Invitational champion Charlotte. 

While the 70-68 defeat against Charlotte in American Athletic Conference play isn't a bad loss — the 49ers are a more-than-respectable No. 118 in KenPom overall ranking — FAU's now just 1-2 since the Arizona win with a couple of trap games ahead vs. Tulane and UAB. 

10. Dayton

The highlight of Dayton's eighth consecutive win, a hard-fought, 64-60 defeat of UMass in Atlantic action? DaRon Holmes put down one of the nastiest dunks of the season thus far. 

"That's definitely one of the better teams in the A-10," Holmes said of UMass. "They did a good job...on the defensive end against us, especially in the second half. We struggled a little bit figuring it out, but we got the win and that's what matters most." 

11. Indiana State  

The variety of ways in which Indiana State has proven effective on offense showed up in its most recent Missouri Valley Conference win, a 77-66 defeat of Northern Iowa. Jayson Kent's 24 points paced four Sycamore scorers in double-figures and six with at least eight paces, as Josh Schertz's ISU team continues to develop with one of the most exciting brands of basketball played anywhere in the country. 

A showdown with Drake, among Div. I's most efficient shooting teams, will determine the early inside track on the MVC regular-season crown. 

12. Charleston 

While Charleston needed a few weeks into the season before finding its stride, Pat Kelsey's bunch is off and running. The two road wins to open CAA play reestablished the Cougars as the conference's team to beat. 


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The 2-0 New York road swing also reflected Charleston's versatility with Bryce Butler stepping up to win CAA Player of the Week. 

13. Princeton   

Princeton picked up its fourth straight win since suffering its lone defeat of the season vs. Saint Joseph's, tipping off Ivy League play with an 89-58 blowout of Harvard. The Tigers have scored at least 81 points in three of their last matchups with Div. I opponents, including posting 81 points on Dec. 5 against a Drexel team that ranks No. 18 nationally in opponent effective field-goal shooting via KenPom.com

14. San Francisco  

Making its first appearance in the FloHoops Mid-Major Power Rankings, San Francisco is the fourth different WCC team to crack the top 15. The Dons played a challenging non-conference schedule with losses to fellow ranked teams Grand Canyon and Utah State by five combined points, and an early-season loss at Boise State (a squad under Power Rankings consideration) by another five points. 

But near-misses against quality competition isn't enough on its own to justify a ranking, and the Dons do indeed boast plenty of significant wins on their 12-4 resume. They beat Minnesota, Purdue Fort Wayne and Seattle, all KenPom top 150 opponents, and have been one of the top defensive teams in the country all season. If USF can navigate games against San Diego, Portland and Loyola Marymount unscathed, it gets shots at Saint Mary's and Gonzaga in back-to-back games later this month. 

15.  James Madison 

The undefeated start came to an end for James Madison after a few weeks of rallies. The Dukes went on the road in Sun Belt Conference play and, after escaping from Louisiana with a tough, 68-61 win, fell at Southern Miss on Saturday, 81-71.