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Which is the Best Conference in College Basketball?

Which conference is the most dominant this year?

The first week of conference play resulted in many upsets throughout big time conferences. Many teams who have looked to be dominant throughout the first half of the season, were upset in early conference games. Since conference play has started six top 25 teams were upset by unranked conference opponents. Cincinnati beat Memphis, SMU beat Connecticut, Kansas State beat Oklahoma State, Notre Dame beat Duke, Wake Forest beat UNC, and Georgia beat Missouri. Two previously unbeaten teams also suffered their first losses in the first week of conference play when Ohio State lost to Michigan State, and Oregon lost to Colorado. Come Monday, the AP and Coaches poll may very well have quite a different look within the top 25. With major conference realignments within big time conferences such as the ACC and the Big East, there is a new look this year in conference play, so who has the toughest conference?

 

Thus far, the Big 10 conference has showed the most dominance. The conference currently has four teams ranked in the top 25, six teams have made top 25 appearances, and eight teams have received top 25 votes. Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are ranked within the top 5 of the AP and Coaches Poll and all are national title contenders. The league itself has not won a national title since the year 2000, when Michigan State won over Florida. However, with such a strong conference they can see possibly up to eight teams entering the tournament this post-season, making their chances at a title run higher than most.

In a very close second, the Big 12 conference holds a number of dominant teams. Currently the conference has five teams within the top 25, six have made top 25 appearances, and seven have received top 25 votes. Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas have all been ranked within the top 10 this season and have the potential to make a title run. These teams are automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, and Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas could also earn tournament berths as well. The leagues past two titles have both come from Kansas; in 2008 over Memphis and in 1988 over Utah. The conference currently does not have a team with a losing record.

The Pac-12 holds the spot for the third most dominant conference. Arizona has held the number one spot for the past four weeks and has showed consistency throughout the season. Colorado and Oregon are top 25 teams, and UCLA has been in an out of it throughout the season. Arizona State has received votes as well in both of the polls. The Pac-12 will likely add at least five teams to the NCAA tournament, not counting the strong play of Utah and Cal that could also lead to tournament berths. The conference has the most NCAA titles in history with 16 overall (thanks to UCLA in the 60’s and 70’s), but it has not won a title since Arizona won it back in 1997. Will they bring a title back to the Pac-12 this season?

With the new additions of Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pitt to the ACC conference, fans expected this to be the most dominant conference in the NCAA. However, this season has not shown much dominance at all. Right now the conference has only two teams within the top 25, but six teams have received votes throughout the season. Aside from Syracuse, who has been great all year and breathing down Arizona’s neck for that number one spot, the conference has been very inconsistent. Duke has been solid and is always a threat to win a national title, even though they just suffered a loss to unranked conference opponent Notre Dame. UNC has been tough to figure out. They have beaten every ranked team they have played, but all five of their losses come from unranked opponents. These three teams, despite the shakiness of UNC are always stacked with talent and can beat any opponent on any night. After them, if Pittsburgh and Notre Dame continue to win games they my find themselves in the NCAA tournament as well. The last ACC national title came from Duke in 2010.

Despite the AAC winning the past two out of three NCAA championships, this year they fall under four other conferences in strength. Louisville and Memphis are the only teams the conference has to show in the top 25 as of now after Connecticut recently dropped from the rankings. All three of these teams will surely find themselves in post-season play, and Cincinnati has continued to prove that they can compete with anyone. A fifth team from the conference that may find a tournament ticket is SMU. As far as a third consecutive national title, the chances do not seem to be in the AAC’s favor.

The SEC has about as many strong teams as the AAC does. Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri all have consistently been within the top 25, however Missouri may not be for much longer after their upset loss to a mediocre Georgia team. Tennessee and Arkansas have received top 25 votes and are possible tournament teams. Kentucky and Florida are strong enough to make runs deep into the post-season, but not likely to bring the national title back to the conference. Florida won consecutive titles in 2006 and 2007, and Kentucky won it in 2012.

The weakest of the seven power conferences is the Big East. Throughout the whole season the conference has had three teams in the top 25: Villanova, Creighton, and Marquette. Nova has proved themselves to be a top ten team, as they have been the past few weeks. Despite their loss to Syracuse they have proved they can beat top teams and have potential to go far into the tournament. Creighton has been in and out of the top 25 and will play in the post-season as well. Marquette has lost players to injury and continues to struggle. Aside from this the conference doesn’t show much dominance. Georgetown, Marquette, Butler, St. Johns, Providence, and Seton Hall are all decent teams, but they won’t be better than that.

Overall the order goes Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC, AAC, SEC, and Big East. As far as winning the national title, the Big 10 (Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State), Pac-12 (Arizona), and the ACC (Syracuse, Duke) have the best shot.