Ranking The Top 10 College Basketball Conferences

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 13: Tim Frazier #23 of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks to pass the ball against David Lighty #23 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the championship game of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ohio State won 71-40. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Throughout the College Basketball season, debates always seem to happen about which conference is the best and toughest to play in for College Basketball. Among the discussion most of the time is the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and just recently the Big 12. Where most arguments come in is how to measure which conference has better depth and who has more of the elite teams. Since the power changes from year to year due to the process each team goes through in peaking, then rebuilding, then peaking, then rebuilding, and so on, it seems only fair that you should look back after the season has ended and rank the conferences then.

The reason I am writing this now and not after the National Championship is because we already know who the best of the best are. Once you get to the Sweet Sixteen, you have those elite teams since now is when they begin to play eachother. Think about it, during the regular season when two Top 16 teams meet up, you know both are worthy material to be in that rank, but you also know one of them will have to go down even though both are elite. The only difference is that the only remaining matchups are between Top 16 teams and there are no more seperations to be made when categorizing each team.

I have given each team in each conference a rating, based on this rubric.

Rank Description
10 Top 5 seed in the Sweet Sixteen
9 6-16 seed in the Sweet Sixteen
8 Top 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament
7 6-12 seed in the NCAA Tournament
6 13-16 seed in the NCAA Tournament
5 1-4 seed in the NIT
4 5-8 seed in the NIT
3 In the CBI or CIT
2 100-200 RPI and not in any tournament
1 200+ RPI and not in any tournmanet

(Note: When I say "In the NCAA Tournament," I mean they got into the NCAA Tournament, but did not make it to the second weekend)

Using this rubric to assign ratings to each team in each conference, here is the process that I follow in finding the grade for each conference: 1) I add the rating of each team in the conference. 2) I take that number and divide it by the number of teams in that conference to get the average rating.

Now that you understand the process, let's take a look at each conference and then the rankings.


Big East

Team Rating
Pittsburgh 8
Notre Dame 8
Louisville 8
Syracuse 8
St. John's 7
West Virginia 8
Cincinatti 7
Georgetown 7
Connecticut 9
Villanova 7
Marquette 9
Seton Hall 2
Rutgers 2
Providence 2
DePaul 1
Total 95


Divide 95 by 16 and you get the Big East's grade of 5.94.

Big Ten

Team Rating
Ohio State 10
Purdue 8
Wisconsin 10
Michigan 7
Illinois 7
Michigan State 7
Penn State 7
Northwestern 5
Minnesota 2
Iowa 2
Indiana 2
Total 67

Divide 67 by 11 and you get the Big Ten's grade of 6.09

Big 12

Team Rating
Kansas 10
Texas 8
Texas A&M 7
Kansas State 8
Missouri 7
Colorado 5
Nebraska 4
Baylor 2
Oklahoma State 5
Oklahoma 2
Texas Tech 2
Iowa State 2
Total 62

Divide 51 by 12 and you get the Big 12's grade of 5.16

Mountain West

Team Rating
BYU 10
San Diego State 10
Colorado State 5
New Mexico 5
Air Force 3
Utah 2
Wyoming 1
Total 44

Divide 44 by 9 and you get the Mountain West's grade of 4.89


Team Rating
North Carolina 10
Duke 10
Florida State 9
Clemson 7
Boston College 5
Virginia Tech 5
Maryland 2
Virginia 2
Miami (FL) 2
NC State 2
Georgia Tech 2
Wake Forest 1
Total 57

Divide 57 by 12 and you get the ACC's grade of 4.75


Team Rating
Florida 10
Alabama 5
Kentucky 10
Vanderbilt 8
Georgia 7
Mississippi State 2
Tennessee 7


Arkansas 2
South Carolina 2
Auburn 1
Total 59


Divide 59 by 12 and you get the SEC's grade of 4.92


Team Rating
Arizona 10
Washington 7
California 5
Washington State 5
Oregon 3
Stanford 2
Oregon State 1
Arizona State 2
Total 49

Divide 49 by 10 to get the Pac-10's grade of 4.90

Conference USA

Team Rating
Tulsa 2
Memphis 7
Southern Miss 2
Marshall 3
East Carolina 3
Rice 2
Houston 1
Tulane 1
Total 40

Divide 40 by 12 and you get Conference USA's grade of 3.33

Atlantic 10

Team Rating
Xavier 7
Temple 7
Richmond 9
Duquesne 3
George Washington 2
Rhode Island 3
St. Bonaventure 3
Dayton 5
Massachusetts 2
La Salle 2
St. Louis 2
St. Joseph's 2
Charlotte 1
Fordham 1
Total 49

Divide 49 by 14 you get the Atlantic 10's grade of 3.50.

CAA (Colonial Athletic Association)

Team Rating
George Mason 7
Old Dominion 7
Hofstra 3
Drexel 2
James Madison 3
Deleware 2
UNC Wilimington 1
Georgia State 1
Northeastern 2
William & Mary 1
Towson 1
Total 39

Divide 39 by 12 and you get the CAA's grade of 3.25.

Honorable Mentions who just missed the Top 10 list:

Horizon League, Missouri Valley, WAC, WCC, Ivy League

Here are the rankings of the conferences:

Rank Conference Grade
1 Big Ten 6.09
2 Big East 5.94
3 Big 12 5.16
4 SEC 4.92
5 Pac-10 4.90
6 Mountain West 4.89
7 ACC 4.75
8 Atlantic 10 3.50
9 Conference USA 3.33
10 CAA 3.25

There is an obvious dropoff from the Big 12 to the Atlantic 10 where you can see that the Top 7 conferences are better than the rest. Note that this model is based on the 2011 season data only.

Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments as I welcome people pointing out errors. If there is enough obvious errors, than I may tweak this model  and make another post at a later date.


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