It’s the middle of January. Selection Sunday -- and the NCAA Tournament -- is still two months away. With conference play now in full swing, we are at the point in the season where there is more than enough of a sample size to get an accurate depiction of where each team stands and what they need to do to make the 2024 NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately for mid-major programs, the opportunity to earn an at-large bid is far more difficult compared to power-five programs, but their path to the NCAA Tournament is far more simple: win your conference tournament and you are in.
With that being said, it's never too early to talk about the NCAA Tournament. Here are five potential Cinderella teams that can make some serious noise in the 2024 NCAA Tournament.
HM: Western Carolina Catamounts
For a program that has been to the NCAA Tournament just once in 46 total seasons, third-year head coach Justin Gray has Western Carolina standing at 15-3 with road wins over Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. Led by Vonterious Woolbright (20.7 PPG, 12.4 RPG), the Catamounts have put themselves in a position to make noise in the upcoming months.
HM: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
First-year head coach Steve Lutz, who spent time as an assistant under Greg McDermott and Matt Painter before leading Texas A&M Corpus Christi to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, is no stranger to being around winning cultures. A winning culture in Bowling Green, Kentucky has been established as the Hilltoppers have been 9-1 since Nov. 26 and will look to remain a force in the C-USA for the remainder of the season.
HM: High Point Panthers
Another coach hailing from the Greg McDermott coaching tree, first-year head coach Alan Huss has the High Point Panthers standing at 15-4 overall, matching their overall win total from last year -- and it's only the middle of January.