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Stats Corner: Best B-Ball in the West

Who is the best conference between PAC 12, WCC, and MWC

Nevada v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

In previous seasons, Stats Corner has compared football to the AAC and Sun Belt conferences while the basketball comparisons have been to AAC, Atlantic and Missouri Valley. The MWC is having a great basketball season, so this time the comparisons will be PAC 12 and WCC to see who is the best in the West. The ranking system will be the NCAA NET system and rankings are as January 23rd, if you need a refresher on the NET system we have one. The conferences will be divided into thirds with the MWC being 4-4-3, the PAC 12 4-4-4, and WCC 3-3-3

Overall

PAC 12 Average Ranking: 86.4

MWC Average Ranking: 99.5

WCC Average Ranking: 173.3

I still maintain that when BYU left the WCC that the MWC should have called Gonzaga and St Mary’s and made an invite to join the conference, plus either San Francisco or New Mexico State if you wanted and even number of schools. While the MWC is slightly below the PAC 12, the WCC has fallen. Last year the averages were 91 for MWC and 122 for WCC. So as good the MWC has been this year, it is actually a little higher average compared to last year. This average does affect the number of bids a conference will get, the PAC 12 could have a final four contender in Arizona, but only be a 3 bid conference which is about what the WCC is, with the MWC looking at 5 or 6 bids. If you do not have a school who can contend for a national title, then you need as many bids as possible.

Top Tier

MWC-23.8: #20 San Diego State, #22 New Mexico, #26 Colorado State, #27 Utah State

PAC 12-29.5: #3 Arizona, #24 Utah, #35 Colorado, #56 Oregon

WCC- 36.7: #23 St. Mary’s, #29 Gonzaga, #58 San Francisco

These are the headliners and the teams you want competing for an at-large bid. The MWC is highest ranked conference even if it is without a top 10 team. The PAC 12 does have national contender in Arizona, but there is a little drop off to Utah and Colorado and then a huge to Oregon. The WCC has two solid schools in St Mary’s and Gonzaga (as usual), but they also have a drop off to San Francisco. This leaves both conferences looking at the 2-3 bid range. The MWC has 4 schools in the top 30, with league leading 5-1 Utah State the lowest of the four but would be a top two ranked team in the either conferences. The MWC gets the lowest average and the most bids in the West.

Second Tier

PAC 82.5: #57 Washington State, #74 Washington, #90 USC, #109 Stanford

MWC-99.5: #53Boise State, #54 Nevada, #108 UNLV, #167 San Jose State

WCC-177.7: #14 Santa Clara, #182 LMU, #237 Pepperdine

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 as games can become the all-important Q1 or Q2 games. This is a strong area for the MWC and PAC 12 as their entire second tier give quad 1 or 2 wins for the NET rankings. This is especially important as Q1 and Q2 losses do not cause a huge drop in rankings while they do provide a boost with a Q1/Q2 win. With teams ranked this high, it means the opening round of the conference tournaments could be a Q2 match-up when at large schools are looking to impress the committee. This area is a major weakness for the WCC. The drop off in quality teams for the WCC is considerable, meaning a bad game and an opening round match-up could be a Q3 or Q4, devasting if it is a loss and does not help much if it is a win.

Third Tier

PAC 12-147.3: #110 Arizona State, #136 California, #149 UCLA, #194 Oregon State,

MWC-205.7: #177 Wyoming, #201 Air Force, #239 Fresno State

WCC-305.7: #253 San Diego, #308 Portland, #356 Pacific

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 (ranked 356 out of 362) is not going to help the resumes and rankings for the tier 1 WCC teams. The PAC 12 is similar to the MWC with one PAC 12 and two MWC schools are ranked considerably lower than the others, to 9 out of 11 or 11 out of 12 solid schools leads to a solid conference. In previous years the MWC would have two or three schools in the 200s and a couple in the 300s. This year, only two school are ranked in the 200s and the Falcons are close to getting out of 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 in a good position, as is the rest of the conference.

Overview

With a higher average and 2 out of 3 tiers doing better than the MWC, the PAC 12 can claim to being a (slightly) better conference than the MWC. There is no doubt the WCC is struggling as a conference. The gap between the PAC 12 and MWC is small, especially for a Power 5 and a Mid-major. The biggest difference between the conference is the depth. The bottom half of the MWC just cannot compete with the bottom half of the PAC 12.