2024 Jersey Mike's CAA Men's Championship

Mid-Major Power Rankings: Championship Season 2024 Tips Off

Mid-Major Power Rankings: Championship Season 2024 Tips Off

Conference championship season marks the beginning of March Madness, and the race for the NCAA Tournament is officially underway.

Mar 8, 2024 by Kyle Kensing

Discussion of an expanded NCAA Tournament field has gained some steam in recent weeks. Regardless one's position on the matter, former coach and current broadcaster Steve Lappas made a great point on a recent telecast when he said every team in a conference tournament is in the postseason. 

Sure, league championships aren't under the NCAA Tournament umbrella with all that entails. But the same principles that make March Madness apply to conference tournaments — especially for the majority of leagues that receive only a single bid to the Big Dance. 

The first such invitations are given out beginning March 9. Here's a rundown of the conference tournament championships decided from March 9-13. 

March 9 


Top seeds Little Rock and UT Martin received automatic byes to the March 8 semifinals, when the No. 1 Trojans face fourth-seeded Western Illinois; and the No. 2 seed Skyhawks take on No. 3 Morehead State. 

The Friday night winners advance to the March 9 championship, where the first automatic bid to the 2024 NCAA Tournament will be awarded.

March 10 


No. 10 seed Jacksonville stunned regular-season champion Eastern Kentucky in the March 5 quarterfinals, throwing the ASUN Tournament into chaos. The Dolphins nearly advanced to the finals, but second-seeded Stetson escaped an 88-87 thriller to reach the March 10 championship. 

The Hatters are playing for their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid in program history, but have to beat a program with a lengthy March Madness resume. Austin Peay has been a regular in the Big Dance since the days of "Fly" Williams in the 1970s, most recently advancing to the Tournament in 2016. 


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Big South

A season to remember for High Point could culminate in the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers claimed the Big South Conference regular-season championship with Alan Huss named the league's Coach of the Year. 

High Point also landed a trio on 1st Team All-Big South: Duke Miles, Kimani Hamilton, and Kezza Giffa. The Panthers' big three could see the Big South Player of the Year and a potential March Madness star, Drew Pember, if No. 2 seed UNC Asheville advances to the March 10 championship round. 

Both High Point and UNC Asheville have to navigate games on Friday and Saturday in order to reach the title round, however. 

Missouri Valley 

Arch Madness has a well-earned reputation as one of the most consistently exciting and consequential conference tournaments in college basketball. With regular-season Indiana State firmly on the bubble as an at-large candidate, the 2024 edition of the Missouri Valley Tournament is no exception. 

The Sycamores look to make a run to Sunday's championship, but both No. 2 seed Drake and No. 3 Bradley have the firepower to deny Indiana State just its second NCAA Tournament bid since the 1979 Final Four run. 

March 11


A league with some high-profile March Madness upsets in recent years, including the Steph Curry-led Davidson Elite Eight run of 2008 and Wofford's 3-point shooting wowing the nation in 2019, looks to produce another Cinderella story in 2024. 

Samford has been among the nation's most exciting teams in the 2023-24 campaign, employing a high-octane offensive style that ranks fourth in Div. I for points scored per game (86.9). Achor Achor, A.J. Staton-McCray, Jaden Campbell, Jermaine Marshall, Garrett Hicks, Nathan Johnson and Rylan Jones have all made at least 23 3-pointers to fuel the Bulldogs' high-scoring offense. 

Sun Belt 

James Madison broke into the Top 25 earlier this season on the strength of an undefeated start, but the Dukes could not best Appalachian State in the regular season. 

The Mountaineers enjoyed their best campaign since the Bobby Cremins era of the late 1970s, playing a style that blends potent offense and aggressive defense. Appalachian State and James Madison could be headed to a third encounter with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line. 

March 12 


There may be no more wide-open conference tournament in the nation than the Coastal Athletic Association Championship, streaming live here on FloHoops.com

Washington, D.C., welcomes a strong field with reigning champion Charleston once again designated as the team to beat. The Cougars can expect stiff competition, however, including a potential rematch of last season's championship game in the semifinals against a UNC Wilmington team that swept this year's series. 

Rounding the top four that earned byes into Sunday's quarterfinals are Hofstra, which boasts CAA Player of the Year Tyler Thomas; and Drexel with the first-ever three-time Defensive Player of the Year in CAA history, Amari Williams. 


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A bevy of upsets in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championship saw second-seed Youngstown State's pursuit of a first-ever NCAA Tournament bid ended by No. 7 Cleveland State; No. 3 Green Bay, the most improved team in the nation, fall to No. 6 Milwaukee; and fourth-seeded Wright State lose an overtime thriller to fifth-seeded Northern Kentucky. 

That leaves only No. 1 seed Oakland among the top four heading into the March 11 semifinals. The Grizzlies face Cleveland State, while Northern Kentucky and Milwaukee clash in pursuit of Tuesday's championship game. 


Eligible for the NCAA Tournament for the first time, a Merrimack program that made immediate waves in the NEC vies for the conference's automatic bid to the Big Dance. The Warriors are the No. 2 seed, heading into the March 9 semifinals against Div. II newcomer Le Moyne. 

Top-seeded Central Connecticut State looks to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. 

West Coast

Two of the best mid-major programs for the last two decades running, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, split an intense regular-season series. The Bulldogs and Gaels could be headed to a rubber match in Las Vegas, but the WCC has dark-horse contenders to watch. 

Santa Clara scored a win over Gonzaga earlier this season, and Broncos coach Herb Sendek is well-acquainted with March success. San Francisco is among the most highly rated mid-major teams in the nation by advanced metrics.  

March 13


Colgate has enjoyed a monopoly on the Patriot League title in recent years, and the Raiders are again the team to beat in the league tournament. 

A March 10 semifinal showdown with 1st Team All-Patriot League performer Jack Forrest and Bucknell. Meanwhile, second-seeded Boston University clashes with Lehigh in the other semifinal. 


McNeese emerged as one of the most surprising stories in college basketball this season. The Cowboys aim to finish their story with a run to the NCAA Tournament. 

McNeese rolls into the Southland Championship at 28-3 and a winner of nine straight behind one of the most prolific offenses in the game. The Cowboys shoot the 3-pointer at better than 39 percent as a team, paced by the trio of Shahada Wells, Javohn Garcia and Antavion Collum. 

Second-seeded Texas A&M Corpus Christi received the other bye into the March 12 semifinals. The Islanders will try to reach a third consecutive NCAA Tournament at the expense of McNeese's dream campaign. 

Big Sky

After dominating the Big Sky in 2022-23, Eastern Washington was stunned in the conference tournament. The Eagles regrouped in 2023-24 with a similar effective offensive production, and they are again the team to beat in the Big Sky Championship. 

A group that includes former UCLA Bruin Jake Kyman, big man Ethan Price and veteran Casey Jones makes EWU the team to beat, but Northern Colorado heads into Boise on the upswing. 

March 8 Top 15

1. Utah State

Amid the turbulence of the wild Mountain West, Utah State rides a four-game winning streak into the regular-season finale showdown with New Mexico. The Aggies sit alone in first place atop what has been the best mid-major conference all season long, with a chance to clinch an outright title — adding to a trophy case that already includes the Cayman Islands Classic crown won in November. 


2. Gonzaga

This hasn't been the standard season of Gonzaga dominance, but the Bulldogs have clawed their way back into familiar territory ahead of the West Coast Conference Championship: Ranked in the top 25 and headed to an NCAA Tournament bid. 

Gonzaga capped its regular season with an impressive, 70-57 win at Saint Mary's. The Gaels had the nation's longest winning streak heading into that matchup and were undefeated in WCC play. Ryan Nembhard outdueling Aidan Mahaney, who has been among the most impressive guards in mid-major basketball all season, sets a tone for the Zags' pursuits in the postseason. 

Nembhard went for 20 points and 10 assists in the win. 

3. Saint Mary's 

The loss to Gonzaga was Saint Mary's first setback since Dec. 23, hardly a blight on what has otherwise been an outstanding latter-half of the season for Randy Bennett's Gaels. 

Saint Mary's heads to Las Vegas assured for an NCAA Tournament berth, but claiming the WCC sweep of both the regular-season and tournament championships would be a considerable notch for a program that has long been firmly No. 2 in the league; and a boost to the Gaels' NCAA Tournament outlook. The winner of a potential Saint Mary's-Gonzaga rematch seems a likely candidate for a No. 4 seed in the West Region. 

4. South Florida 

The hottest team in college basketball, South Florida, can put an exclamation point on its stunning run to the American Athletic Conference regular-season championship when it faces Tulsa on March 9. 

Metrics don't love the Bulls, who are only No. 82 in KenPom.com overall rankings and No. 73 in NET. That's presumably not good enough to warrant at-large consideration, despite USF winning the regular-season crown of a league that has consistently received multiple bids since its inception. 

Numbers don't accurately reflect how good this USF has been, employing an efficient offense built on ball movement and with aggressive, shot-denying defense. The Bulls deserve a bid, no matter how the AAC Tournament shakes out. 

5. Nevada

Nevada's resurgence since a January slump has the Wolf Pack in position to sneak into the Mountain West regular-season title conversation, contingent on the final weekend's results. 

Nevada aims for the season sweep of in-state rival UNLV, which has been on fire in its own right. The two teams have won six and five games in a row, respectively, and they went down to the wire when meeting in Las Vegas on Feb. 17. 

6. San Diego State 

A remarkable tidbit about 2023 national runner-up San Diego State's campaign is that, with a 62-58 loss at UNLV on March 5, the Aztecs have not won more than two games in a row since rolling off seven straight from Dec. 9 through Jan. 9. 

Is that a bad omen for San Diego State's prospects of putting together another deep NCAA Tournament run? Perhaps, but a roster that features an All-America caliber talent in Jaedon LeDee and the veteran backcourt savvy of Lamont Butler, Reese Waters, Darrion Trammell and Micah Parrish can rally once the postseason begins. 

7. Dayton 

Dayton has, at times, looked like the most complete mid-major team this season. DaRon Holmes is as potentially dominant on both ends of the floor as any player in the country, and the Flyers' collective ability to shoot from long range can take them all the way to Arizona for the Final Four. 

That makes Dayton's standing at No. 3 in the Atlantic 10 ahead of the final regular-season weekend all the more surprising. The Flyers can score a measure of revenge when they wrap up against VCU, but after losing to Loyola Chicago on March 8, Dayton faces a more difficult path to the A-10 title at next weekend's tournament. 

8. Boise State

Boise State's bid for a regular-season Mountain West championship took a considerable blow with a 76-66 loss at home on March 5 to Nevada. The Broncos close out the regular season on March 8 visiting San Diego State in a rematch of their classic on Jan. 20. 

With wins over San Francisco and Saint Mary's out of conference, plus the Mountain West docket boasting victories against Colorado State, Nevada, a sweep of New Mexico, and San Diego State, Boise State should be safely in the NCAA Tournament field. 

However, avoiding a late-season losing streak might be important to solidifying the Broncos' spot among the final 68. 

9. Indiana State 

A two-game slide last month against Illinois State and Southern Illinois didn't help Indiana State's at-large prospects, but the Sycamores rallied nicely to close out the Missouri Valley regular-season title. 

At 26-5 heading into Arch Madness, and with a KenPom ranking of No. 45 and NET of No. 30, Indiana State should be an easy choice to include in the NCAA Tournament with or without the automatic bid. Josh Schertz and Co. would rather leave no doubt and run the table in St. Louis. 

Indiana State looks to join FAU a season ago as teams that parlayed a spot in the College Basketball Invitational into deep runs in the following season's NCAA Tournament. 

10. Richmond 

Riding a six-game winning streak, Richmond closes the regular season on March 9 at George Mason with an opportunity to clinch an outright A-10 title. 

The Spiders are similar to South Florida in that the metrics don't love Chris Mooney's team. Richmond ranks just No. 75 in KenPom and No. 70 in NET. However, Richmond's remarkable efficiency on offense — the Spiders rank second nationally in turnover percentage per KenPom — combined with a stout defense makes UR a Sweet 16 candidate. 

What's more, an A-10 that has typically earned multiple NCAA Tournament bids should have its regular-season champion in the mix — especially with Richmond boasting wins over Dayton, Loyola Chicago, and the suddenly surging UNLV Runnin' Rebels during the non-conference schedule. 


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11. McNeese 

McNeese heads into the Southland Conference Tournament at 28-3 and a winner in of 23-of-24. The Cowboys' potent offensive style and ability to create deflections on defense make for matchup nightmares that could produce a 1st Round upset — if McNeese can secure the automatic bid to the Big Dance. 

12. Appalachian State

Appalachian State rallied from a Feb. 7 loss at Texas State to win its final seven games of the regular season, five by double-digit point margins. The Mountaineers head into the Sun Belt Championship at 26-5 overall with a resume that includes a win over KenPom.com No. 6 Auburn and a regular-season sweep of James Madison. 

13. James Madison 

Although James Madison fell short of the Sun Belt regular-season championship, a result of losing the season series to Appalachian State, James Madison might be the team to beat in the conference tournament. 

The Dukes have rolled off 10 straight since the 82-76 loss to Appalachian State on Jan. 27, which is the nation's second-longest streak through March 7. James Madison has a compelling case for at-large consideration with its win at Michigan State and 28-3 overall mark. 

14. FAU 

Last year's surprise Final Four participant FAU hit a rough patch in February, dropping 3-of-6 over a stretch in American Athletic Conference play. All were by four points or fewer, including an overtime decision at UAB. 

FAU rallied over its two to start March, winning another couple close games against Tulane and North Texas. A chance to score revenge against Memphis, which outlasted FAU in a 78-74 final on Feb. 25, would send the Owls into the conference tournament on a three-game winning streak. 

15. Charleston

The road to a second consecutive regular-season CAA championship — with this one being outright — did not come easily for Charleston. 

The Cougars dropped 3-of-5 over a stretch from Jan. 18 through Feb. 1, including two to rival UNC Wilmington. The 80-74 setback at home against the Seahawks was the last time Charleston lost, however, as Pat Kelsey's bunch regained the form that powered the 2022-23 team to the NCAA Tournament. 

Charleston concluded its regular season on a nine-game winning streak, including winning each of the last four by double-digit-point margins. An 87-76 defeat of a tough Hofstra team on March 2, in which sharpshooter Reyne Smith knocked down six 3-pointers, sends Charleston to Washington, D.C. on a roll in pursuit of back-to-back CAA Championship titles. 


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