College hoops conference rankings: ACC is best, then Big 12, Big East
With November tournaments over, chances for quality wins decrease substantially
We're 17 days and nights into the 2016-17 campaign, and with more than 580 games cleared among the eight most successful conferences, so taking time to take quick stock of how the leagues compare makes sense. Who has the best wins? The worst losses? Where are we still waiting to see results of long-term significance and impact?
We're looking at the biggest leagues: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, American and Atlantic 10, listing them from best to worst according to KenPom.com rating. I'm also noting the best wins and worst losses each conference has taken.
For best wins, I'm including any victory vs. a team that was ranked 1-40 in KenPom entering Monday. Worst losses is more subjective. Basically, any defeat in which a loss is noticeably damaging to an NCAA Tournament resume. Losing a game you're not supposed to means the L is listed. Fortunately for all of these leagues, we're not quite halfway through the nonconference portion of docket. So there are more games coming, but the number of opportunities for quality wins dwindles with fewer chances at top competition after the November tournaments and events end.
But we won't be slim on pickings. Remember, the ACC and Big Ten will get opportunities galore over the next three nights, as the conferences clash in a made-for-TV event, which starts Monday.
ACC (73-16 record, .820 win pct.)
Unbeaten teams remaining: 3 (UVa, UNC, Notre Dame)
The best conference in the country is surprisingly low on good wins. However, it's interesting to note the ACC has many acceptable losses, defeats against clear-cut projected NCAA tourney squads. Syracuse's 64-50 loss to South Carolina on Saturday wasn't bad on paper, but in performance (only 50 points?) it was putrid. Still, South Carolina is undefeated, so I won't call it a bad L. Miami had two good chances in Orlando, but got beat handily by Iowa State and Florida. Overall, the ACC has performed well, but the litany of Big Ten opponents coming next will go a short way to determining the league's nonconference reputation. Syracuse, Virginia, Miami, NC State, Florida State are still looking for a big-time win.
BIG 12 (48-9 record, .842 win pct.)
Unbeaten teams remaining: 2 (Baylor, TCU)
No league has more good wins, and Baylor is a big part of that. The Bears have the most impressive resume in the nation, with four wins against teams ranked in the top 40 of KenPom. The league is the only one still at single-digits losses, in part because the Big 12 has only 10 teams. And we're still waiting for teams like Texas and West Virginia to start compiling meaningful wins. Both should have the personnel and coaching to qualify to make the NCAA Tournament. Shockingly, TCU is undefeated, but the Horned Frogs' schedule has been relatively easy.
BIG EAST (44-15 record, .746 win pct.)
The four unbeaten teams are carrying the league's reputation. And I'll give a lot of credit to Butler and Creighton for not only starting out 6-0, but doing so vs. challenging schedules. Elsewhere, the Big East has room for concern. Georgetown (3-4) has a win over Oregon, which is weird, but I also didn't list home loss to Maryland as a bad loss, though it was gutting. G'town totally caved with a lead. It was also spanked by 27 to Oklahoma State in Maui after falling by 16 to Wisconsin. DePaul and St. John's haven't shown signs of improvement. Jury is still out on Marquette and Providence.
BIG TEN (67-21 record, .761 win pct.)
Talk about some shockers in the undefeated ranks. Maryland is the only one to make last season's NCAA Tournament. I expected Ohio State to be noticeably better, but Minnesota and Rutgers?! Hey, don't care that their SOS isn't close to good (Rutgers has the nation's third-worst SOS); these teams need wins for morale purposes. Georgetown is the only team that rivals Indiana for the greatest disparity between really good win and really tough loss. Good on them. Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Illinois would do their league well by winning vs. the ACC this week.
PAC-12 (54-17 record, .761 win pct.)
Best wins: at Texas A&M (USC); vs. SMU (USC); vs. Texas A&M (UCLA); vs. Michigan State (Arizona).
The conference is doing all right but lacks an especially impressive victory. The best wins are all against teams not ranked in this week's polls. And among the unbeatens remaining, oddly, Utah has only two games vs. D-I competition so far, fewest of any team in America right now. The Utes -- who do have a legit game at home Monday night vs. Butler -- started with Northwest Nazarene and Concordia of Oregon. The league doesn't have a ton of bad losses, but Oregon State, which was a single-digit seed in the NCAAs last season, is off to a miserable start. Interestingly, the Pac-12 and Big Ten have the same win percentage?
SEC (55-22 record, .714 win pct.)
Unbeaten teams remaining: 2 (Kentucky, South Carolina)
Best wins: vs. Syracuse (South Carolina) vs. Miami (Florida); vs. Michigan State (Kentucky); vs. Michigan (South Carolina); vs. Virginia Tech (Texas A&M); vs. Texas Tech (Auburn).
The SEC's done OK overall. This past weekend was huge, as South Carolina, Florida and Texas A&M earned pivotal wins. And the league mostly has steered clear of bad losses, though Arkansas' 85-71 loss at Minnesota was a bad look . The same can be said for Vanderbilt opening with a 95-71 loss to Marquette. And it's tough to slot Tennessee's 82-69 home loss to Chattanooga as a bad loss because the Mocs undeniably are better this season. I'm projecting five NCAA Tournament bids for the league, same as I expected entering the season. The difference? Those five teams (UK, South Carolina, Florida, A&M, Georgia) are mostly performing better than I expected.
THE AMERICAN (38-22 record, .633 win pct.)
Unbeaten teams remaining: 1 (Houston)
Best wins: vs. West Virginia (Temple); vs. Florida State (Temple).
Worst losses: at home to Jacksonville State (Tulsa); at home to Wagner (UConn); at home to Northeastern (UConn); at home to New Hampshire (Temple); vs. Mercer (East Carolina); at Florida Atlantic (USF).
This conference is in desperate need of big wins. UConn shoulders plenty of the blame, but other teams have missed on opportunities as well. Temple (4-2) has the league's only wins against top-40 competition. SMU's 76-67 win over Pitt on a neutral is the next-best victory, and Pitt might not be a top-10 team in the ACC. By the by, Connecticut has only one Division I win (against Loyola Marymount). If the AAC can't log at least four good wins before conference play begins (I count at least eight chances against likely NCAA Tournament teams), this might be a two-bid league. Interesting three weeks ahead. Keep an eye on Houston, which faces LSU (on the road), Arkansas (on the road) and Rhode Island (at home) in three of its next four games. Winning 2 of 3 there would be massive. Cincinnati is the best team.
ATLANTIC 10 (51-29 record, .638 win pct.)
Unbeaten teams remaining: None
Best wins: vs. Cincinnati (Rhode Island).
Worst losses: to Texas Southern at Home (La Salle); to Canisius at home (Duquesne); to Mount St. Mary's at home (George Mason); to Tennessee Martin at home (Duquesne); vs. Little Rock (St. Bonaventure); to Towson at home (George Mason); to Ball State at home (Saint Louis).
The only conference in our group no unbeaten team. The A-10's overall win percentage beats the AAC, but the lack of big wins is concerning. Dayton, already battling injury issues, has dropped games against the two best teams it's faced (Saint Mary's, Nebraska). Rhode Island's looked good for the most part, and VCU's probably going to be a tourney team again. The bottom of the conference is slumping to fast, as four teams already have at least three losses. Teams that can lift this league up in December: Davidson and Richmond. Both most dodge the bad losses.
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