Power Ranking the Power Conferences in College Basketball
The "High Major" Conference Rankings for the 2012-2013 Season
The college basketball season is finally here but without any games to go on really, we are left to prognosticate. We all have our own issues we love to talk about but the one I keep hearing over and over is which conference is the best in the land. Unlike our brothers on the football side though, this debate actually matters. The strength of a conference can mean the difference between your favorite bubble team getting in the dance or being left at home. After all, conference RPI is a stat that is thrown around by the selection committee and while there is no minimum or maximum number of teams each conference can put into the tourney, you can't tell me they aren't thinking about it.
The year college hoops looks more wide open than ever. There is no dominant team this year that proved their worth last season. Kentucky lost their starting 5, Indiana just tasted success for the first time in a long time and the Pac 12 should be back but by how much?
These are all questions that will be determined over the next couple of months although I think I’ve got a decent idea which direction they will go in. My way of ranking the conferences is simple. The amount of depth you have in your league. Every conference is going to have its heavyweights, perhaps with the exception being last year’s Pac 12 conference. However, this year that isn’t the case and depth will truly come into play. Without further ado, let’s get to the rankings.
The Pac 12 is a major wildcard this year. If Shabazz Muhammed is cleared by the NCAA I expect Ben Howland to get UCLA back into serious Final Four contention. Former Xavier star Mark Lyons joins some talented newcomers on an Arizona team that already has budding star Solomon Hill. Colorado's Andre Robertson is a pro and while last year's team was senior laden, the roster isn't bare. Stanford had a great run in the NIT and boast one of the nation's best back courts. Although that's about it with Arizona State, Utah and Washington State looking like they'll be some of the worst teams in the nation.
When North Carolina State is the consensus best team in your league you have a bit of pause, however they are stacked with talent. Then you add in an always competitive Duke and North Carolina who both should be top 15 teams despite losing quite a bit to the NBA. Florida State returns all everything guard Michael Snaer to team with that ferocious defense. Maryland should be able to score quite a bit led by Alex Len inside with Dez Wells and Nick Faust outside. Miami could make some noise with a dominant big man like Reggie Jackson. I wouldn't even count out Wake being a major surprise thanks to a major upgrade in recruiting under Jeff Bzdelik.
Kentucky won the national championship last year and while they lose their starting five, they don't rebuild, they reload. Florida has a great trio with Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton. Missouri joins the league with key transfers Alex Oriakhi and Jabari Brown. Tennessee woke up during conference play thanks to one semester wonder Jarnell Stokes. Alabama, Ole Miss and even Arkansas could make the dance as well.
#3 Big 12
I think Kansas is overrated nearly every season but Bill Self's squad seem to always shut me up. While he lost Thomas Robinson to the NBA, the Jayhawks should still be among the top teams in the country. Kansas State is going to flourish under Bruce Weber with just enough scoring led by Rodney McGruder. Baylor grabbed 7 foot phenom Isaiah Austin to go along with their talented backcourt of Pierre Jackson and AJ Walton. Oklahoma State has two former McDonald's All-Americans. Even Iowa State is starting to develop their own talent. I'm not as high though on West Virginia as others are and I expect the Texas schools to struggle.
#2 Big East
This will be one of the last year's the Big East is actually a relevant basketball power. However, I expect it to go out with a bang. Louisville is a legit national title contender thanks to Peyton Siva and tremendous depth. Syracuse will be right there again. Cincinnati is a tremendous defensive team with a number of returning starters. Marquette might have lost Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom but they get back key big Chris Otule. Georgetown surprised everyone last year and Otto Porter should be a household name this season. South Florida just grinds you down. Providence can surprise anyone thanks to Ed Cooley's "win at all cost" recruiting. The only bad team besides DePaul might be Villanova although you have to think they'll impress with Jay Wright on the hot seat.
#1 Big Ten
Another year and the Big Ten is back on top but the big question is this year will they get it done when it counts the most? That is yet to be determined but right now the conference looks better than ever. Indiana is the number one team in the country with nearly everyone returning and a national player of the year candidate in Cody Zeller. Michigan State loses Draymond Green but adds McDonald's All-American Gary Harris, plus you know Tom Izzo's teams are always tough to play. Michigan gets even more weapons on the perimeter. Ohio State will miss Jared Sullinger but DeShaun Thomas might be the best scorer in America when it is all said and done. Minnesota gets back potential All-American Trevor Mbakwe who will pair with Rodney Williams to create one of the best front courts in the land. I'm concerned how Wisconsin will replace point guard Jordan Taylor given Josh Gasser's season ending injury. However, they'll probably be in the tourney with Iowa and Northwestern possibly joining them along the way.