When it comes to conference reputation, all that really matters is football and basketball, with perhaps baseball on occasion. As a former college sprinter, you have to accept that track and field, and other sports, take second, or third/fourth, fiddle to the money programs, the track team had to do parking for the football and basketball games to get money to travel. Case in point, BYU is currently first in the Directors Cup. Pop quiz, “How did BYU do in fall sports?”. Here is the run down, women’s cross-country took second as a team and had the individual nation champion in Whittni Orton, the women’s soccer team played were national runners up losing on penalty kicks, the women’s volleyball team made the Sweet Sixteen, the men’s cross country took 7th with Connor Mantz winning the individual title. The least success team was the football team ranked 19th, however, that is probably what most of you remembered about BYU fall sports.
In a previous Stats Corner, I argued that with the realignment the Mountain West could become the strongest Group of 5 football conference. This week, we are going to look at the conference rankings for basketball. The conferences in questions are American, Atlantic 10, Mountain West, Missouri Valley, and West Coast. The ranking system will be the NCAA NET system, if you need a refresher on the NET system there are two previous articles on how the rankings are created and their use in the NCAA tournament. The conferences will be divided into thirds with the American and Mountain being divided 3-4-4, Missouri Valley and West Coast 3-4-3, and the Atlantic 10, with 14 teams (yep, 14 teams in A10, goes along with Big 10 and Big 12), being divided 4-5-5. Ranking were taken Monday, January 31st.
MWC Average Ranking: 106.7
AAC Average Ranking:106.8
WCC Average Ranking: 133.5
A10 Average Ranking: 138.4
MVC Average Ranking: 146.0
With BYU leaving the WCC, can someone explain to me why the MWC did not send Gonzaga and St Mary’s an invite? If they wanted an even number San Francisco or New Mexico State could make it 14 members. It would have been the perfect time to add to the basketball conference with some quality teams. While the MWC has the lowest average, in this case that is a good thing, the WCC and AAC have the highest ranked teams in the nation. Basketball is a little different that football, in that every school actually has a chance or competing for the national title. The WCC average might be a little lower, but if Gonzaga wins a national title, then the weak conference argument will not matter. This average does affect the number of bids a conference will get, the AAC could have a final four contender but only be a one bid conference. If you do not have a school who can contend for a national title, then you need as many bids as possible.
WCC-19.3: Gonzaga NET #1, St Mary’s NET #23, BYU NET #34
MWC-34.0: Boise State NET #31, Wyoming NET #33, Colorado State NET #38
AAC- 42.0: Houston NET #2, SMU NET #56, Cincinnati NET #68
A10- 60.8: Davidson NET #50, VCU NET #55, St Louis #62, Dayton NET #76
MVC- 64.3: Loyola Chicago NET #32, Missouri St NET #67, Drake NET #94
These are the headliners and the teams you want competing for an at-large bid. The WCC is by far the best conference in this regard (it could have been the MWC with an invite to 2-3 schools). Not only do they have a national title chance, they should be at least a 3 bid league maybe 4. No other non-power conference can claim that. The AAC does have Houston, but short of an upset in the conference tournament they will be a one bid league as SMU and Cincinnati do not have a chance as an at-large bid. The MWC does not have the national team as it has in the past with Nevada and San Diego State, but they will be a 2-3 bid league.
MWC-60.8: San Diego St NET #44, Utah State NET #52, Fresno St NET #64, UNLV NET #115
AAC- 86.8: Memphis NET #70, Wichita St NET #82, UCF NET #84, Tulane NET #111
A10- 113.8: Richmond NET #90, George Mason NET #96, St. Bonaventure NET #99, Rhode Island NET #118, St. Joseph’s NET #166
WCC- 118.8: San Francisco NET #39, Santa Clara NET #74, San Diego NET #159, LMU NET #203
MVC 135.3: Bradly NET #103, UNI NET #117, Southern Illinois NET #134, Indiana St. NET #187
In order to have a high NET ranking you need to play quality schools, this second tier may not grab national attention or at large bids, but they will heavily influence the top tier NET rankings. This is a strong area for the MWC as there are three strong schools which can give quad 1 or 2 wins for the NET rankings, especially in the conference tournaments when schools are looking to impress the committee. This area is a major weakness for the WCC and MVC. The drop off in quality teams for the WCC is considerable, and will increase even more when BYU leaves. The AAC falls into the familiar pattern of one great school and several above average, they have a habit of doing this in football. Their second tier is not going to drag the conference down, but it’s not really strong enough to help build the resumes of the top teams. The A10 has depth, but Davidson and VCU are not strong enough to get multiple bids therefore they fall into a strong conference that is good, but not great.
AAC-175.5 Temple NET #120, ECU NET #172, Tulsa NET #174, South Florida NET #236
MWC-199.3 Nevada NET #135, New Mexico NET #165, Air Force NET #210, San Jose St. NET #287
A10- 225.0: Massachusetts NET #186, Fordham NET #189, Duquesne NET #244, La Salle NET #249, George Washington NET #257
MVC-242.0: Illinois ST NET #194, Valparaiso NET #219, Evansville NET #313
WCC-267.3: Portland NET #222, Pepperdine NET #286, Pacific NET #294
These are the teams which need to step it up. Yes, someone needs to be at the bottom of the conference rankings, but they do not need have a low NET ranking. A victory over Pacific is not going to help the resumes and rankings for the tier 1 WCC teams. For the AAC, it shows that several teams are close to moving up to another tier, ECU usually has a ranking in the high 200s/ low 300s, so a NET of 174 is an improvement. The same for the MWC, in previous years, there has been a school or schools in the 300 range. This season there are only 2 schools in the 200s. If a conference wants to have multiple bids, it cannot have the lowest tier in the low 200s as it drags down the other rankings. Under the NET system, school rankings are connected, so a strong conference cannot afford too many schools to be ranked poorly. The bottom of the MWC is moving in the right direction. It just needs the top teams to make some noise on the national stage.