College basketball is loaded with talent every year. Typically, the “Blue Blood” schools are considered to be the cream of the crop. This means the Big 12, Big Ten, and ACC have legs up on the competition. This year, parity is the word used to describe the college landscape. This makes it increasingly difficult to determine the NCAA conference power rankings.
Over the last five seasons, on average 37 major conference teams have made the NCAA Tournament. Sticking close to that number, the six power conferences will be ranked below. The number of teams to make the tournament and have a legitimate shot to contend will help determine the NCAA conference power rankings.
The Pac-12 has been extremely disappointing over the last few years. The embarrassment was capped off last season with just three teams reaching the tournament. Of those three, the highest seed was number nine Washington. Luckily, Oregon was able to make a run to the Sweet 16. This season, the Pac-12 is off to a much better start and should have more than three teams in the tournament.
The conference is led by the Oregon Ducks who are currently ranked sixth. They have already beaten Memphis, Seton Hall, and Michigan. The Ducks two losses have come to North Carolina and Gonzaga on back to back nights in close fashion.
Arizona and Washington have loaded rosters. They both rely heavily on freshmen. The Huskies have knocked off Baylor and have close losses to Tennessee, Gonzaga and Houston. The Wildcats are currently ranked 24th but still lack a true quality win. They have plenty of work to do in conference play.
Colorado and Southern California (USC) are off to hot starts. They both have the talent to contend for the conference title, but will not be able to afford slow starts in conference, especially USC.
Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, and USC. That gives the Pac-12 five out of 12 teams, or 42 percent. Oregon and Washington appear to be the only definites here. Oregon will be a top-four seed.
Typically, the “new” Big East is not thought of in the same breath as the other major conferences. The current conference is made up of several teams that used to be considered mid-majors. However, some teams have burst onto the national scene, earing the conference some national attention.
The Big East is led by perennial power Villanova. Jay Wright has turned the Wildcats into one of the best teams in the nation. This season, they lack some of the talents they have had in past years, making them more likely to be a mid-seed in March.
Seton Hall was thought to be the best team at the start of the season, but they sit at 8-4 and have suffered crucial injuries to important players, including Myles Powell. They still have some quality wins and should be a tournament team.
One surprising participant in the national conversation is DePaul. The Blue Demons are 12-1 with wins over Iowa, Minnesota, and Texas Tech. Assuming they return to expectations slightly, they still should have more than enough of a resume to not only find themselves in the Big Dance, but also have a chance to win the Big East.
Butler, DePaul, Villanova, Marquette, Xavier, Creighton, and Seton Hall. This gives the Big East seven out of ten teams or 70 percent. These are big numbers for the Big East. They have proven themselves out of the conference and set themselves up well for tournament seeds. However, they do not appear to have a legitimate threat to win a title.
The SEC is known as a football conference, and rightfully so, with a powerhouse like Alabama. They have one of the biggest college basketball programs in the nation in the Kentucky Wildcats, but the middle of the conference lacks a significant punch. This year does not seem to be much different.
The Wildcats are still the most talented team in the conference, loaded with another crop of freshmen sensations. John Calipari is off to a slow 8-3 start, but this team will be in contention in late March as they continue to grow together.
Additionally, the Auburn Tigers, led by Bruce Pearl, have entered the national conversation. The Tigers made a tournament run last year to the Final Four where they narrowly missed out on a National Championship game birth at the hands of Virginia. Pearl has them playing well again as one of three remaining unbeaten teams. However, the schedule has been weak. They do not quite have the firepower they had last year.
The Florida Gators were supposed to be the cream of the crop in college basketball this year. As of now, they are a measly 7-4 with a couple of tough losses and good wins.
Additionally, the SEC has LSU and Tennessee who are trying to replenish successful rosters from the last few seasons. The SEC finds itself one spot ahead of the Big East because it has a title contender.
Kentucky, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. This gives the SEC five out of 14 teams or 36 percent. The SEC has a lot of unproven and untested teams. They just do not have enough of a nonconference resume to earn more spots. It seems likely Kentucky will be the only top-four seed of the bunch.
Yes, Kansas really did lose the conference last season. No, that was not a dream. The Jayhawks ridiculous stronghold on the regular-season crown ended with Texas Tech and Kansas State tying for best record.
This season, Kansas is ready to reclaim its crown. The Jayhawks seem to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league. They have an experienced roster and the talent to contend in March.
Baylor is the only team that could at least challenge Kansas. They are currently ranked seventh in the nation and boast wins over Villanova, Arizona, and Butler. They need a bit more firepower to be taken seriously.
The Big 12 is known for its depth. However, this season, it seems they are far more inconsistent than usual. The middle of the pack for the conference has several quality wins but more bad losses. Teams like Texas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Texas Tech have not been consistent. Ultimately, conference play will be very important because the out of conference records are not great.
Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Iowa State, and Texas. This gives the Big 12 six out of ten teams or 60 percent. Other than the first three, really any team can make the tournament from this conference. Iowa State and Texas need to get busy in the conference to make their case. This conference is not as strong as past seasons. Kansas and Baylor will be top-four seeds.
The ACC is always in the argument for the best conference in the nation. They are led by the Blue Bloods, Duke and North Carolina. Additionally, Virginia has made a legitimate case to enter that historically powerful conversation with their success over the last five years.
The class of the ACC this season is clearly Duke and Louisville. Both teams are in the top five this season and will have excellent chances to make it to Atlanta in April. Both teams have just one loss this season and some great wins. Duke has knocked off Kansas and Michigan State, while Louisville hammered Michigan. These two have clearly separated themselves in the forever muddled ACC.
North Carolina lost Cole Anthony from an already thin roster and have taken several lumps early on, leading them to a 7-5 record. They seem likely to be an NIT team, at best.
Virginia is 9-2 and panic has begun. Kidding, of course. It is interesting to see Virginia struggle early on after having so much success recently. They lack any true offensive threat, but they make up for that with one of the best defenses in the nation.
The middle and bottom of the ACC are not as strong as years past. Essentially, from number five to number 13, there are very few distinguishing factors. This is bad for the conference because cannibals will take over and resumes will suffer.
Duke, Louisville, Virginia, Florida State, Pittsburgh, NC State, and Miami. That gives the ACC seven out of 14 teams or 50 percent. Honestly, other than the first four, who knows what other three teams make it. There just are not enough good teams in the middle of the ACC. Duke, Louisville, Florida State, and Virginia will be top-four seeds.
The Big Ten is always one of the two best conferences in college basketball. It has a ton of depth and is usually strong at the top. This season is no different.
The best team in the conference is undoubtedly Ohio State. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent, especially in the backcourt. They have wins over Villanova, North Carolina, and Kentucky. They have no true weaknesses and have so much depth. This team will be around all season.
Maryland and Michigan State entered the season with a ton of praise, but both have disappointed. The Terrapins are 10-2 with consecutive losses to Penn State and Seton Hall. They lack any sort of offense and will need to correct that to meet expectations.
Michigan State is 9-3 with losses to Kentucky, Virginia Tech, and Duke. They lack a consistent wing and rely too heavily on Cassius Winston. They have some quality wins, but definitely need to improve to reach their National Championship aspirations.
Michigan, Penn State, and Iowa fall into tier number two, along with Maryland and Michigan State. They all have some great wins and some tough losses. These teams have the potential to make it to the second weekend in March, but they also could be upset on opening night.
Ohio State, Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, Penn State, Indiana, and Illinois. This gives the Big Ten eight out of 14 teams or 57 percent. The Big Ten snuck out the Big Ten ACC Challenge 8-6 which is grounds to give them the lead here. Add to that more tournament teams and the Big Ten becomes the best conference in basketball this year. Ohio State, Maryland, and Michigan State will be top four seeds.
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