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Ranking the Best Conferences in College Basketball, Part 1 11

Posted on February 28, 2011 by Ray Thompson

Jimmer Fredette has been the face of college basketball this season and has the BYU Cougars poised for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

If you are paying attention at all to this year’s division I basketball season, you know how crazy things are.  This year is wide open, and for the first time it is a true statement to say that anyone can win it all.  Of course, there are the usual players like Duke, Ohio State, and North Carolina (who is in the top 20 but is usually in the top 5 year in and year out), but there are also teams like BYU, Xavier, Vanderbilt, and Missouri in spots normally occupied by teams from the ACC and SEC.  My boys from Harvard by the way are close to cracking the top 30 and are in a dog fight with Princeton for the top spot in the Ivy league and their own spot in the dance.

It is for this reason that I thought it would be fun to rank the top 10 conferences since this year has been so wide open, and so fun to watch.  My criteria for making this analysis was focused on how many teams are represented by that conference in the top 50 as well as quality wins by those teams against other top opponents.  For reference, there are currently 32 division 1 conferences (33 if you count the independents) with 346 teams in those conferences.  Those teams are vying for 68 spots in the NCAA tournament.

So as we come out of February, and head into March Madness, here is my ranking of the top conferences.  I am breaking this article into two parts, Part I being conferences 10 – 6.  Here goes:

Top Conference #10: Conference USA

The list starts with CUSA ranked at 10 in my top ten.  This conference has two viable teams who will go dancing from this conference in Memphis and UAB.  This conference boasts five teams with 20 wins, (UAB, Memphis, UTEP, Southern Miss, and Marshall).  That said, they are a combined 2-5 against top twenty five talent.  CUSA will be well represented in the NIT with a log jam of teams with impressive season win totals.  When you look at the early brackets, Memphis will come out of the West while UAB will be the 12 seed out of the southeast.

Top Conference #9: Horizon Conference
The home of Milwaukee and Butler and Cleveland State, this is a conference that has made news the last few years with Butler becoming the Gonzaga of sorts for this conference.  Butler used to be an unknown team who has since had some marquis appearances in past tournaments.  This conference will likely send two, potentially three teams to the dance, with Milwaukee and Butler likely coming out of the southwest.  This is a conference of giant killers and will play spoiler to a team like Cincinnati, Kansas or even Duke.  Given how this season has gone, it would not be a surprise to see both Milwaukee and Butler win their early round games, and potentially play each other which is possible given current brackets having both these teams coming out of the same region.   Read the rest of this entry →

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