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Ranking the Top Conferences in College Basketball

Posted on March 04, 2011 by Ray Thompson

Ben Hansbrough and Notre Dame is just one of the teams that makes the Big East the strongest conference in college basketball.

Welcome to Part II of my ranking of the top conferences in Division I college basketball, just in time for the start of the conference tournaments.

Illustrating the volatility of the 2010-11 season, this past weekend, #1 Duke falls to Virginia Tech, who a few days later loses to Boston College, a team on the bubble hoping for an at large bid, pushing Ohio state into the #1 spot in both polls.

BYU suspends one of its marquis players, Brandon Davies, for violating the schools honor code, and they go from Dance Darling to big question mark.  Ranked #3 after beating San Diego state last weekend, BYU, in its first game without Davies in the line-up, is upset by New Mexico losing by a margin of 18 points.  Is this a momentary lapse by a team that has been dominant all season or is Davies that much of an impact player that it changes the dynamics of that team significantly?  Only time will tell.  That is an amazing kick off to the month of March and is why this season is like no other.

With that said, here are my Top 5 Conferences:

Top Conference #5: The Atlantic Coast Conference
No conference represents the volatility of this season quite like the ACC.  This is a conference that at one time looked as though it could send as many as 6 or 7 teams to the tournament and now may be lucky to send 4.  The ACC conference has only two teams in the top 25 in Duke (starting the weekend ranked number 1 and now ranked #4) and North Carolina outside the top ten at #13 with a chance finish tops in the ACC with one more win.  This is a very competitive conference with Florida State and Virginia Tech likely heading to the dance but also includes teams like Boston College, Maryland, Miami, and Clemson who currently find themselves on the outside looking in.  Duke is likely the 2 seed in the East, North Carolina the three seed out of the West, with Florida State the 10 seed and Virginia Tech the 8 seed both coming out of the southeast bracket.  These four teams are a combined 8-9 against ranked opponents with Duke carrying 4 of those wins. So while this conference may only send 4 teams, they will be battle tested teams coming out of a strong conference.

Top Conference #4: The Big 10
The Big 10 boasts the current #1 team in the nation, Ohio State, and is likely to send as many as 6 teams (probably 5) to the tournament.  As we know the number one spot has been proven to be tough to hold on to but is still impressive.  This conference also has 3 teams currently ranked in the top 10, with Purdue and Wisconsin ranked #6 and #10 in this week’s national AP poll respectively.  Those three teams are a combined 13-8 vs. top 25 competition.  So why is this conference only number 4?  After Wisconsin the Big 10 lacks real pop with Michigan State, Michigan and Illinois hovering around the 18 win total for the season going a combined 5-21 against the top teams in the country.  Ohio State is the number one seed coming out of the East, Wisconsin is the 3 seed coming from the southeast, and Purdue will likely be the 2 seed out of the Southwest.  Michigan State is likely a 10 seed out of the West, Illinois is on track for a 10 seed out of the East, and Michigan is on the bubble hoping for a 12 seed but their stock is dropping.

Top Conference #3: The SEC Conference
The SEC has 3 teams ranked in the top 25, and will likely be represented by 5 teams in the tournament.  Those teams are a combined 14-13 against ranked opponents, and boast 7 teams who currently have 18 wins or more.  The SEC will be well represented in the NIT tournament as well for sure.  Florida is the clear leader in the conference and is a team that spreads the wealth.  Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton lead in scoring averaging 14 and 13 points respectively while Chandler Parsons leads the team in rebounds.  Watch the University of Alabama and University of Georgia, two teams who could be sleepers in this tournament and although Alabama has lost their last two, those losses came against Florida and a tough Mississippi squad.

Top Conference #2: The Big 12

Marcus Morris and Kansas seem to be the top team in a tough Big 12.

How about the Big 12, a conference that is dominating.  With four ranked teams in Kansas (2), Texas (8), Texas A&M (20), and Missouri (24), this is a conference with 9 teams with 18 wins or more.  The ranked teams are 13-10 vs. other ranked opponents and likely to send the aforementioned 4 ranked teams along with Kansas State, currently on a five game win streak joining the party.  Look for Kansas to be a 1 seed coming out of the west with Missouri, a 7 seed.  Texas will be a 2 seed coming out of the southeast bracket, with Kansas State (8 seed) and Texas A&M coming out of the southwest bracket.  You can’t mention the Big 12 and Kansas without mentioned Marcus Morris who leads the Jayhawks in both points and rebounds.  Kansas is on a six game winning streak and a tournament favorite who will be tough to beat.

And my top conference is:
Top Conference #1: The Big East
Dominant all year, this conference boasts 8 teams currently ranked in the top 25, and could send as many as 11 teams to the tournament.  Ranked teams in the Big East are an impressive 44-34 against other top ranked talent.  Those eleven teams have records of 18 wins or better with five of those teams with 22 wins or more and another set of those teams on winning streaks of 3 games or more heading into the conference tournament.  This is a revival for the Big East and is reminiscent of 1985 when the Big East sent 3 of its teams to the final four setting up an all Big East Championship game between Georgetown and Villanova in a game that is widely considered one of the greatest in college basketball.  A talent rich conference with Ben Hansbrough, Kemba Walker, and Dwight Hardy, there is a very real possibility for an all Big East final four.

There you have it, my rankings of the top basketball conferences in Division I College basketball. Enjoy the conference tournaments which figure to be some of the most competitive in years and pay close attention to my top three conferences where you will see some incredible games.

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