Predicting the champion for every one of college basketball's 32 conferences
Conference play begins earlier than usual and here are our picks to win each league
Your eyes do not deceive you. Yes, there are conference basketball games being played on the first day of December this season.
Well, the Big Ten Conference decided to play its tournament at Madison Square Garden this season, but the World's Most Famous Arena is playing host to the Big East Tournament on the last weekend before Selection Sunday as it traditionally does.
So the Big Ten tourney will be a week earlier than usual (Feb. 28-March 4) and the ripple effect gives us conference games earlier than usual.
And we aren't complaining about games taking on extra importance earlier in the season. The Big Ten is the first to begin league play, but it won't be long until the other leagues get underway, so with a few non-conference games to gauge each team, our experts give their picks on who will win each of the 32 conferences.
The Shockers return all five starters back from a team that finished in the top 10 at KenPom last season, and have a bonafide star in point guard Landry Shamet. When they get Markis McDuffie back on the court, they're going to be the team to beat in the AAC.
Vermont's the team to top in the America East after getting to the NCAAs under John Becker last season. With Anthony Lamb returning and Trae Bell-Haynes taking on a bigger role quarterbacking the offense, the Catamounts will likely be back in the field of 68 come March.
Duke is the preseason No. 1 team and the cream of the crop not only in the ACC, but also the country. With Marvin Bagley III playing like a potential player of the year candidate, the Blue Devils have the tools and talent - as well as the coach - to enter league play as the odds-on favorites in one of the stiffest leagues in America.
Dunk City is back! Thanks to the return of all-everything stud Brandon Goodwin and a projected junior leap for Zach Johnson, the Eagles should soar to an A-Sun title and find their way back in the NCAAs. Again.
The Rams were close to scooting into the Sweet 16 a season ago, and with Jared Terrell suddenly looking like the star of Dan Hurley's unit, fifth-year senior E.C. Matthews gives Rhode Island one of the best second options in the A-10.
Just like Kansas in the Big 12 (spoiler alert!), Villanova is the favorite in the Big East until proven otherwise. With four consecutive regular season titles and a cast of stars headlined by Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, the Wildcats are once again the cream of the crop in the league.
Behind Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine, the Grizzlies are class of the Big Sky. But the gap between Montana and a slew of contenders -- including Idaho and Montana State isn't that wide.
The Bulldogs boast three double-digit scorers in the early season and, outside a shellacking at the hands of Rhode Island in the opener, have fared well against upper level competition. Nick McDevitt just can't stop winning. They might win the league in a runaway.
The moment Miles Bridges declared he was returning for his sophomore season, Sparty became the preseason favorite in the Big Ten. They have one of the best defenses in the country and their offense, which is top-20 at KenPom in efficiency, is more balanced than you might expect from a team that is star-studded.
All hail the Anteaters! Irvine is going to run the show in the Big West this season -- and into the foreseeable future -- thanks to a young, talented roster Russell Turner has assembled.
Kansas is the favorite in the Big 12 until it doesn't win it. Even after losing Josh Jackson and Frank Mason, the Jayhawks are loaded with NBA-caliber talent and a senior in Devonte' Graham who could slip right into Mason's massive shoes he left behind.
Charleston has struggled early with losses to Cal Poly and Wichita State, but the longterm outlook of the Cougars season is incredibly bright. Joe Chealey and Grant Riller should be able to lead them to an NCAA Tournament appearance and a regular season league title.
Entering the season, Middle Tennessee was expected to rely heavily on Giddy Potts - but thus far it's been Alabama transfer Nick King and Brandon Walters that have paced the Blue Raiders. If Potts is Kermit Davis' third option, Middle could be a legit Cinderella threat in the Big Dance.
Yale is anchored by Miye Oni after it lost Makai Mason earlier this season for an indefinite amount of time. If Mason returns, Yale has a chance to make it back to the NCAAs. Heck, they might do it without him. The Bulldogs are still the favorite in the Ivy.
Oakland has finished on the wrong side of some lopsided games this season, but the Grizzlies have the roster to win the Horizon by a mile. Kendrick Nunn, Martez Walker and Jalen Hayes are three of the league's top talents and all three are capable of pouring in 25 points on any given night.
The top of the MAAC is pretty well stacked, but Iona gets the nod here thanks to the uber-effective inside-out combo of TK Edogi and Rickey McGilll.
Buffalo's trio of junior standouts in Nick Perkins, CJ Massinburg and Jeremy Harris gives the Bulls the slight edge over a solid Western Michigan team.
Morgan State's upperclassmen heavy unit is being carried by freshman LaPri McCray-Pace, who leads the Bears in scoring this season. His emergence should push them into the top tier of the MEAC.
The Panthers lose Jeremy Morgan and yet are still favored to win the Valley by our panel, a testament of what Ben Jacobson has been able to build and sustain. Missouri State and Loyola will get some run, as well. Turning the ship around from 14-16 to MVC contender will no doubt be a challenge and quite a feat if Jacobson can pull it off.
So long as Eric Musselman is on the sideline, the Wolf Pack have a shot at the Mountain West. That's the case this year. They won the league last year and the return of Jordan Carolina and Caleb Martin ensures they will be near the top once again.
Two reasons why St. Francis is the favorite in the NEC: Isaiah Blackmon and Keith Braxton. They're averaging a combined 30.5 PPG thus far this season.
The leap senior Amanze Egekeze has made from his junior to senior season nearly ensures the Bruins are the toughest out in the OVC. He and Kevin McClain have made tremendous leaps from last season and, alongside Dylan Windler, figure to be one of the most lethal offenses in the league.
Zona was a near consensus favorite entering the season, but a rocky start has some of our experts considering USC. Still, the Wildcats have Sean Miller, a stellar freshman in DeAndre Ayton, and a potential Pac-12 player of the year candidate in Allonzo Trier. If they're able to put it all together, they've got the talent to win the league running away.
Zach Thomas is going to carry Bucknell all the way to the postseason. The senior is having a tremendous last go-round already, averaging upwards of 24 points per game. Nana Foulland and Stephen Brown are no slouches, either.
Total toss up here, but we're giving the Gators the edge over Texas A&M and Florida ever so slightly. Mike White's guard-heavy team is the most fun in the SEC, and perhaps the best unit overall.
The Tigers are our pick to come out on top of the SWAC, which would give them a fourth league title in five years. Demontrae Jefferson and Donte Clark are tremendous SWAC scorers.
Led by senior Ria'n Holland, Mercer's got a shot to contend for the league title and a postseason appearance. But it won't be easy with Furman, Wofford and Samford all improved units from a season ago.
Stephen F. Austin: With a three-headed monster on offense in T.J. Holyfield, Shannon Bogues and Kevon Harris, the Lumberjacks are again the cream of the Southland crop and should improve on a disappointing 12-6 conference record from last season.
Mike Daum's scoring numbers are down a tad this season, but the production of freshman David Jenkins Jr. has been a revelation. The Jackrabbits have a real shot to make it to the NCAAs - again.
Scott Cross' squads have improved incrementally over the last four seasons, and the Mavericks are primed to take the next step with a potential NCAA Tournament bid this season. Keep an eye on do-it-all senior Kevin Hervey as a guy who could be in to absolutely explode before he tests the NBA waters.
Grand Canyon has the best homecourt advantage in college basketball. Period. Still a newbie to the Division I scene, many - including our staff - are pegging the Antelopes to break through with a WAC title. Joshua Braun is a pro scorer who should be able to lead Dan Majerle's group to do it.
No, this isn't the year Saint Mary's breaks through and bests Gonzaga. Despite losing Przemek Karnowski and Nigel Williams-Goss from its national runner-up squad last season, Johnathan Williams and Josh Perkins have the goods to fill the void and then some. The Zags are again the class of the WCC.
CBS Sports HQ Daily Newsletter
Get the best highlights and stories - yeah, just the good stuff handpicked by our team to start your day.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
The oft-injured KU big man will be back for one more year after an injury cut short his 2018-19...
The Blue Devils extended their lead atop the 2019 rankings by landing another top-30 prospect...
A look at the underclassmen who have already declared for this summer's NBA Draft
Who's moving up and down the Top 100 Big Board of NBA Draft prospects
Porter is the younger brother of 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter Jr.
Winston's return is certainly good news for MSU, but Ward was not expected to bolt for the...