College Basketball: Ranking the Conferences in 2009 - 2010
by Paul Grossinger
1. Big 12:
Unlike ESPN, which ranked the Big 10 number one, I value the potential for greatness over solid consistency across the board. The Big 12 has the favorite to win the NCAA tournament, Kansas, which fields one of the strongest rosters in recent memory led by PG Sherron Collins, sensation freshman swingman Xavier Henry, and C Cole Aldrich. In addition, the conference has Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma; teams which all have the talent and potential to go far in the tournament.
2. Big 10:
If you believe that short and steady wins the race then the Big 10 should be your conference of choice. Virtually every team in the conference, with the exemption of Northwestern and Indiana, has a good shot to make the tournament and the Big 10 also has two potential final four teams in Purdue and last years’ runner up Michigan State. However, while the conference is excellent across the board, it lacks a team that is a favorite to win it all and the brutal in-conference schedule will take its toll. All in all, the Big 10 is your most solid conference but the sky is NOT the limit for its best teams.
This is not last years’ ACC where UNC was the odds on favorite to win it all (a good bet as it turns out) with Wake Forest and Duke as other top seeds. Even with the versatile Roy Williams at the helm UNC will have difficulty replacing the production of Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Wayne Ellington (all lost to the draft) but does have young talent, led by PF John Henson, coming in. That said, they look to be more of an elite eight team than a top contender and Duke again looks weaker than usual. However, with two potential elite eight teams and several other squads, including Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, likely to make the tournament, it remains one of the strongest conferences.
The SEC earns the fourth best ranking largely because of what John Calipari has done with Kentucky in one recruiting offseason. The man may be unscrupulous but he is clearly the most talented recruiter in college basketball. With PG John Wall, C DeMarcus Cousins, and PF Patrick Patterson (all future first round picks), Kentucky has the potential to go from NIT participant to Madness winner in less than a year. Notably, had Calipari managed to sign Xavier Henry, his recruit at Memphis, to come as well then they would be the consensus favorite. Beyond Kentucky, LSU and Florida remain solid but there isn’t a lot of power in the conference.
5. Big East:
Of the major conferences, the Big East lost the most firepower in the last year. Without Hasheem Thabeet, the Huskies are more of a second round out than final four contender, Pittsburg may be bound for the NIT after losing all its stars, and Louisville is weaker without Earl Clark as the ultra-swingman. That said, the Big East will still be solid since Villanova and Georgetown have potential and Syracuse and Notre Dame may also make the tournament. All in all, this means they are ranked but the conference boasts no serious contenders.