Ranking College Basketball’s Low-Major Conferences


I have looked at all 32 college basketball conferences and their members’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament. With just four weeks left in the regular season, I examine the 10 conferences that I consider to make up Division I’s low-major conferences.

Each of these 10 conferences will receive one NCAA Tournament bid. Therefore, unlike the High-Major Conferences and Mid-Major Conferences, I will look at the best teams and attempt to predict if they can win an NCAA Tournament game.

23. The Colonial Athletic Association

The CAA has bounced back and forth between mid-major to low-major conferences over the last several years. While Charleston (22-3) is having a superb season, the league has taken a step back despite adding three teams this offseason. Monmouth, Hampton, and North Carolina A&T are the new additions this year.

Five teams have a winning record, although the league is only 1-26 in Quad I contests. Charleston and Hofstra (17-8) are tied atop the conference at 11-2. Towson (17-8) and UNC Wilmington (19-7) are next in line.

Charleston is the best all-around team, and they love to launch 3-pointers. The Cougars are also an excellent rebounding squad that can defend.

Charleston is talented enough to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, as is Hofstra. Hofstra is an extremely dangerous offensive squad that can shoot the ball from long distance. The Pride also have the conference’s best guard duo in Aaron Estrada and Tyler Thomas.

24. The Summit League

The Summit League is having a typical season for the league, thanks mainly to Oral Roberts (21-4). Four teams own a winning record overall.

ORU, on pace to set a program record for wins, is undefeated in league play and holds a three-and-one-half game lead over South Dakota State (14-11). The Golden Eagles will be a dangerous NCAA Tournament team if they get there. Max Abmas, one of the best scorers in college basketball, and Arkansas 7-5 transfer Connor Vanover (13.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.3 blocks) lead the way.

25. Big South

Stronger by subtraction? That could be the Big South’s motto this year, as the conference is having its best season in four years despite having a pair of programs depart this summer.

UNC Asheville (19-7) holds a one-half game edge over Radford (16-9) atop the conference. Longwood (17-9) and Gardner-Webb (13-11) are two and two-and-one-half games behind Asheville.

While the Big South has not had much success in the NCAA Tournament, 6-10 forward Drew Pember and guard Taijonm Jones could make the Bulldogs a tough first-round out for a top-3 seed.

The Big South is 4-30 all-time in the Big Dance.UNC Asheville leads the way with two victories, although the last time they made an NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2016.

26. Patriot League

Colgate (18-8) is the top team in the league, and they have been for the past four seasons. The Red Raiders appear destined to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five campaigns as they hold a three-game lead in the conference. They are a solid team, led by five seniors, although this may be their worst club overall during this stretch.

27. Horizon League

Youngstown State (19-6) is the best team in the conference. YSU holds a one-game edge on Milwaukee and Northern Kentucky. None of the three teams put fear into their first-round opponent.

28. Ohio Valley Conference

The OVC is wide open. Morehead State (16-9) holds a one-game over Southeast Missouri State (13-12) and a two-game advantage over three teams.

29. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

The MEAC and the SWAC have long been considered the two worst conferences in college basketball. The MEAC is putting together a pretty good run, comparatively speaking, these past two seasons as the conference is on pace to post its second consecutive season with a winning percentage of .440 or above.

Maryland-Eastern Shore (14-8) and Howard (14-10) are tied for the league lead at 6-1. However, two-time defending regular season champions Norfork State (16-7) is the best team and only one game behind the leaders. Guard Joe Bryant leads a veteran team with 17.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists.

30. Southland Conference

The Southland gets the nod at No. 30 in my rankings, as all three teams, who own a winning record, have at least 14 victories. On a six-game winning streak, Northwestern State tops four of the 10 squads with at least a .500 record at 15-8. Texas A&M Corpus Christi (15-9) and Southeastern Louisiana (14-10) are the other teams with a winning record. Nicholls (11-11) is only 7-11 versus DI teams.

Northwestern State, TAMCC, and SE Louisiana are tied atop of the conference standings at 8-3. TAMCC is a one-half game back, and Nicolls is one and one-half game back.

31. Southwest Athletic Conference
The SWAC is second to last in my rankings. While the league has the worst combined winning percentage in the nation, they have 12 teams, and their programs have played a demanding schedule along with a higher win total per team than the NEC.

Grambling State (15-8) and Alcorn State (12-11) are the only programs with a winning record. Southern (12-12) is at the break-even mark though they are 10-12 against D-I teams. The conference is a three-team race down the stretch, with Alcorn State holding a one-game advantage over Grambling State and Southern.

Grambling State is the best team in the league, as they are very experienced and possess apparent talent. Southern and Alcorn State are the league’s No. 2 and No. 3 squads.

All three teams could win a play-in game and become one of the final No. 64 seeds. The SWAC owns an 8-42 overall NCAA Tournament record, with Texas Southern (3-10) winning their play-in game in each of the last two years for the conference.

32. Northeast

The NEC rates as the bottom conference in Division I basketball. Fairleigh Dickinson (14-11) and Wagner (12-9) are the only teams of the nine programs with a winning record. Sacred Heart (13-13) and St. Francis Brooklyn (12-12) own a .500 mark overall though both own a losing record against DI teams.

Stonehill (12-14), which has won three straight, leads the NEC by the one-half game at 8-3. Five teams are within two and one-half games of the Skyhawks.

The conference champion projects as one of the last two No. 16 NCAA Tournament seeds, meaning they will be involved in one play-in game. The NEC automatic berth winner is likely to face the automatic bid winner from the SWAC.

FDU and Wagner are the two best teams in the conference. While neither squad would be any concern for a number one seed, both are good enough to reach the play-in game. The NEC has a 7-42 overall record in the NCAA Tournament.


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