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Conference races to watch

Chaz Williams and UMass have risen to the top of the Atlantic 10. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

With conference play in full swing, here are my thoughts on the some of the races in the major and mid-major conferences. (Won-loss records are entering games played Monday.)

AMERICAN ATHLETIC: Mick Cronin has done a great job with Cincinnati, which is sitting in first at 6-0. Sean Kilpatrick is having a solid season for the Bearcats. Connecticut is a surprise sitting at 2-3, tied for sixth with Rutgers, but there is time for the Huskies to bounce back. Shabazz Napier will lead UConn to better things.

ATLANTIC 10: I believe this is going to be a tight race all season long. Massachusetts, Saint Louis, La Salle and George Washington are the front-runners so far. The Minutemen have been a surprise all season long. I knew UMass was going to be good, but I did not think they'd be this good. The Billikens have two losses, and both came against ranked teams -- Wichita State (by five) and Wisconsin (by six).

ACC: Syracuse is on top at 5-0, but keep an eye on Virginia, which has won four of its last five and nearly beat Duke at Cameron Indoor. It is hard to believe this is the same team that was blown out by 35 against Tennessee in late December. This week's Miami-Duke game will be interesting as the Blue Devils now love to run, while the Hurricanes are outstanding defensively.

BIG 12: The conference race runs through Kansas again as Bill Self's squad leads a talented pack. Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Iowa State ... this conference is loaded. But Jayhawks freshman Joel Embiid has displayed major improvement in the paint. Self said earlier this season that this team would grow up and get better. The Jayhawks certainly have.

BIG EAST: Overall, this conference has not been as strong as expected. Marquette, Georgetown and St. John's have all had bumps in the road. Jay Wright and his Villanova Wildcats have played sound, fundamental basketball and stand as the crème de la crème so far.

BIG TEN: This is the best conference in college basketball this season. I cannot wait to call Michigan-Michigan State this weekend. As I write this, both teams are unbeaten in league play. Keep an eye on Iowa as I have been very impressed with Fran McCaffery's deep and talented club. Wisconsin has struggled lately, as has Ohio State.

MISSOURI VALLEY: Can anybody beat Wichita State? Enough said.

MOUNTAIN WEST: San Diego State has been the story. Steve Fisher has a lot of new faces, but they have blended nicely. The lone loss for the Aztecs was against No. 1 Arizona by nine points.

PAC-12: Arizona is tied for first with Mike Montgomery's red-hot California squad. The Golden Bears have won six in a row. Colorado really suffered a blow when Spencer Dinwiddie was lost for the season.

SEC: Florida and Kentucky are lock city for the Big Dance. How many other teams from this conference will make it? They will beat each other up. Tennessee has looked good at times, but is 11-6 overall and 2-2 in league play.

WCC: Gonzaga has been plagued by injuries, but still has the lead. BYU has bounced back and is one game behind at 5-2 in league play. This could get interesting down the stretch.