We have nearly reached the midpoint of the 2021-22 men's college basketball season, and conference play is about to enter its most frenzied phase. The first two (mostly nonconference) months of the season were full of chaos and excellent matchups, but the important part starts now.
March is fast approaching, and it's about to get real, folks.
But, we know some fans are only just now catching up, and need to know what they've missed so far.
Well, we're here for you.
Here are some of the highlights from a wild opening chapter to the 2021-22 college basketball season.
Sanogo drops career-high 30 points as UConn survives in 2OT
No. 22 UConn outlasts No. 19 Auburn in double overtime behind Adama Sanogo's 30-point effort.
Best Game: UConn Huskies 115, Auburn Tigers 109
Nov. 24, 2021, Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis (Paradise Island, Bahamas)
There was so much drama in this game between the AP Top 25 teams. In the Huskies' double-overtime victory, Adama Sanogo finished with 30 points, six rebounds and three blocks -- and managed to produce a chunk of that while playing with four fouls. A late UConn turnover in the first overtime was converted into a K.D. Johnson layup that sent the game into a second overtime, where the Huskies pulled away and secured the win. What a matchup. Find a replay and watch.
Honorable mention: Duke Blue Devils 84, Gonzaga Bulldogs 81 (Las Vegas)
Duke's three-point victory over Gonzaga happened in one of the best atmospheres thus far. Brooks Koepka and Floyd Mayweather both sat in the front row at T-Mobile Center. The projected No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2022 NBA draft battled on the floor, with Chet Holmgren missing time because of foul trouble and Paolo Banchero absent for a stretch in the second half due to cramps. Even with the two most closely watched college athletes off the court, this game did not disappoint. Both teams were competitive until the final minutes when late free throws sealed the win for the Blue Devils.
Kansas fans erupt as Agbaji slams down alley-oop
Madison Square Garden goes wild over Christian Braun's alley-oop lob to Ochai Agbaji for the thunderous slam.
Best Player: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas Jayhawks
Before this season began, Agbaji said he would step up as a leader for a Kansas squad aiming to capture Bill Self's second national title. In the first half of the season, it was clear that he was serious about those ambitions. So far, Agbaji is averaging 20.6 PPG and connecting on 45.9% of his 3-point attempts. The Jayhawks have made 61% of their shots inside the arc with Agbaji on the floor and 46% with him on the bench, per hooplens.com. His 29-point effort (9-for-17) in KU's 87-74 win over Michigan State in the Champions Classic was the start of a strong national player of the year campaign.
Runner-Up: E.J. Liddell, Ohio State Buckeyes
Liddell entered a Nov. 30 matchup against Duke in Columbus as a sidebar to a Blue Devils squad that had, four days prior, knocked off then-No. 1 Gonzaga. But Liddell's 14 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks helped take down the Blue Devils 71-66, and alerted the nation that Liddell (averaging 19.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.0 BPG), too, is a national player of the year candidate.
Jabari Smith drains off-the-dribble 3 for Auburn
Auburn freshman Jabari Smith shows off his skills with a smooth 3-pointer with a hand in his face.
Best Freshman: Jabari Smith, Auburn Tigers
Entering this season, there was a lot of hype around Holmgren and Banchero. The duo deserved it. But the best freshman effort thus far belongs to five-star prospect Smith. The 6-foot-10 Auburn star is so far averaging 16.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 2.2 APG. He's also connecting on 43% of his 3-point attempts. Smith is must-see TV.
Runner-Up: Paolo Banchero, Duke Blue Devils
The only thing that has stopped Banchero thus far has been muscle cramping, which has sidelined him for portions of multiple matchups. But when he's on the court, he's a savant. At 6-foot-10, he has an inside-outside game unlike any player currently in college basketball. Case in point: He dropped 21 points in his team's win over Gonzaga, despite missing a chunk of the second half. He's a phenomenal player.
No. 2 Baylor cruises to win over No. 6 Villanova
Baylor holds Villanova to just 36 points and grabs a convincing win over the Wildcats.
Best Team: Baylor Bears
Since suffering a 67-64 loss to Washington on Nov. 8, 2019, Baylor has lost five games. Total. After winning the national title last season with a collection of veterans who turned pro, Scott Drew's squad entered 2021-22 amid expectations that the Bears would take a step back. But they had other plans. Entering the week, the undefeated Bears -- who were picked to finish third in the Big 12 -- were top five in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom. They have wins over Michigan State, Villanova, Oregon and Iowa State. Arizona transfer James Akinjo is now the leader of this squad, which has a chance to win another national title. Freshman Kendall Brown (12.3 PPG) is a young star. Baylor has it all, again.
Runner-Up: Purdue Boilermakers
The most efficient offense in America is owned by the Boilermakers. Matt Painter has a national title contender in West Lafayette with this group, which brought Trevion Williams (13.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG) off the bench for the first 10 games of the season. It was a surprising move but also one that helped the Boilermakers get off to a great start. They've made 41% of their 3-point attempts and 59% of their shots inside the arc. And they have a talent pool that can rival that of any opponent they face: Williams, Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey anchor a supporting cast of a program that has just two blemishes on its résumé: a weird, two-point road loss to Rutgers last month and a semi-shocking defeat at home to Wisconsin just this week.
UK's Tshiebwe says goal was just 20 rebounds vs. WKU
Oscar Tshiebwe outrebounds Western Kentucky's whole team with 28 boards, leading No. 20 Kentucky past the Hilltoppers, 95-60.
Most Intimidating: Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky Wildcats
Tshiebwe is a man on a rebounding mission. He won't catch Walt Dukes, who collected 733 rebounds in 33 games in 1953, an NCAA record. But he's off to a tremendous start, averaging 15.2 RPG (No. 1 in America right now) and following that up with 15.8 PPG and 1.5 BPG. With Tshiebwe on the floor, opposing teams have made just 43% of their shots inside the arc. The 6-9 West Virginia transfer is the most imposing force in college basketball right now.
Best Coaching Effort: T.J. Otzelberger, Iowa State Cyclones
When Otzelberger arrived in Ames from UNLV last spring, he had a mess to clean up: Iowa State had fired Steve Prohm following a 2-22 campaign (0-18 in Big 12 play). And it had been picked to finish last in the Big 12 this season. But the Cyclones have shocked the country with a 12-1 start that has included wins over Creighton, Xavier, Memphis and Iowa. In their conference opener last week, the Cyclones battled Baylor, their lone loss of the season so far. They might not have been able to take down a dominant Bears squad, but they did send a message that they can play with any team in the country. With conference play set to begin, Otzelberger is up there on every reputable national coach of the year list.
Most Surprising: Memphis Tigers
Memphis has been the most unpredictable and turbulent team so far. Adding five-star prospects Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren over the summer had elevated projections about the Tigers, but they just haven't hit the mark. There has been a lot of drama within the program. And Penny Hardaway doesn't seem to have the answers for this talented group, which enters conference season with a 7-5 record. Maybe this team just needs time to figure it out. The talent is there. But if you win the NIT and then add two projected lottery picks, things should get better, not worse. That hasn't been the case for Memphis.
Best Mid-Major: San Francisco Dons
Head coach Todd Golden is only 36 years old. If the Dons' success -- a 13-1 record that includes nonconference wins over Davidson and Arizona State -- continues, he won't be on campus past 37. The WCC gauntlet will be fascinating this season. San Francisco is a team to watch.
Best Mid-Major Player: Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy Titans
Davis has six performances of 20 points or more this season. Plus, he has made 40% of his 3-point attempts. At 22.2 PPG, he's in the top three nationally in scoring. In a Nov. 20 road loss to Louisville, he scored 27 points. He's a scoring machine.