Conference comparisons: How the top leagues stack up so far

The Pac-12 (USATSI)
The Pac-12's RPI isn't at the top, but it does have a case as the best overall league. (USATSI)

We've got a lull here around the Christmas holiday. College basketball will be back in full swing come Saturday, but in the meantime there's a bit of down time. And so now seems a good time to reflect on the overal scope of the sport and see how the best leagues have performed so far.

The ACC was expected to be the best conference in the country, but every viable tool for measuring league performance definitively shows that's not been the case. So which league is best? Well, you can decide -- and I've compiled a lot of information to help you make your choice. Objectively, it looks as though the Pac-12 could be that league -- but the RPI says otherwise.

I'm not a huge fan of the RPI, but it is still used as a tool by the NCAA's selection committee, so with that in mind I did what to use it as a reference point. Below, the top 10 leagues in RPI, according to our tracket on CBSSports.com. You can view all 32 leagues' listings here.

Conference RPI
  Non-Conference Overall
Rank Conference W L Pct RPI Rank RPI
1 Big 12 Conference 87 24 0.7838 0.5979 1 0.5979
2 Big Ten Conference 114 29 0.7972 0.5948 2 0.5948
3 Big East Conference 83 29 0.7411 0.5753 3 0.5753
4 Pacific 12 Conference 104 32 0.7647 0.5738 4 0.5738
5 Atlantic Coast Conference 120 47 0.7186 0.5677 5 0.5680
6 Southeastern Conference 104 45 0.6980 0.5571 6 0.5571
7 Atlantic 10 Conference 99 49 0.6689 0.5473 7 0.5473
8 American Athletic Conference 81 32 0.7168 0.5348 8 0.5348
9 West Coast Conference 71 40 0.6396 0.5319 9 0.5319
10 Mountain West Conference 73 45 0.6186 0.5303 10 0.5303

But since RPI isn't the be-all, end-all, there are other quantifications we can use to compare conferences. I've done that below. Road performance, record against both RPI top 25/50 and KenPom.com top 25/50, in order to get a broader view. I also took into account how these leagues have done outsider their conference -- and against the top nine leagues they keep company with.

In order of the best collective winning percentages, here's how the top 10 leagues in college basketball stack up:

Pac-12

Record vs. RPI top 25: 5-8 (.385)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 13-17 (.433)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 4-9 (.308)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 13-15 (.464)

Non-con record: 104-32 (.765)
Road record: 13-11 (.542)

Record vs. top 10 conferences: 38-25 (.603)

Big 12

Record vs. RPI top 25: 8-14 (.364)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 15-15 (.500)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 6-9 (.400)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 12-18 (.400)

Non-con record: 87-24 (.783)
Road record: 6-8 (.429)

Record vs. top 10 conferences: 34-20 (.630)

Big Ten

Record vs. RPI top 25: 3-11 (.214)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 8-17 (.320)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 4-14 (.222)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 11-18 (.379)

Non-con record: 114-29 (.797)
Road record: 10-9 (.526)

Record vs. top 10 leagues: 32-24 (.571)

ACC

Record vs. RPI top 25: 5-10 (.333)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 8-22 (.266)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 5-14 (.263)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 16-21 (.432)

Non-con record: 120-47 (.719)
Road record: 10-15 (.400)

Record vs. top 10 leagues: 39-37 (.513)

American Athletic

Record vs. RPI top 25: 3-4 (.429)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 5-9 (.357)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 2-5 (.286)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 4-12 (.250)

Non-con record: 81-32 (.717)
Road record: 9-11 (.450)

Record vs. top 10 leagues: 18-20 (.474)

Big East

Record vs. RPI top 25: 1-10 (.091)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 5-19 (.208)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 2-5 (.286)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 4-14 (.222)

Non-con record: 83-29 (.741)
Road record: 9-6 (.600)

Record vs. top 10 leagues: 28-22 (.560)

Atlantic 10

Record vs. RPI top 25: 3-10 (.231)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 7-18 (.280)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 2-10 (.166)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 7-18 (.280)

Non-con record: 99-49 (.669)
Road record: 20-21 (.488)

Record vs. top 10 leagues: 18-31 (.367)

West Coast

Record vs. RPI top 25: 1-7 (.125)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 5-14 (.263)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 0-8 (.000)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 2-9 (.182)

Non-con record: 71-40 (.640)
Road record: 16-15 (.516)

Record vs. top 10 leagues: 14-22 (.388)

SEC

Record vs. RPI top 25: 3-16 (.158)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 6-24 (.200)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 2-11 (.154)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 9-21 (.300)

Non-con record: 104-45 (.557)
Road record: 3-15 (.166)

Record vs. top 10 leagues: 28-35 (.444)

Mountain West

Record vs. RPI top 25: 0-15 (.000)
Record vs. RPI top 50: 5-21 (.192)

Record vs. KenPom top 25: 1-9 (.100)
Record vs. KenPom top 50: 4-19 (.174)

Non-con record: 73-45 (.619)
Road record: 14-20 (.412)

Record vs. top 10 leagues: 16-29 (.355)

It's clear just how bad the SEC is again. And the Mountain West, which had a surge last season, is dipping back down and proving itself to be on a separate shelf from even the new Big East and the American Athletic Conference. Speaking of the Big East, it's the league with the best overall road win percentage, which I found surprising. But that league's record against the best 50 teams isn't that good, which tells you the new union is feasting on minnows for the most part.

We've basically got a week until conference play begins, and heading into that, the out-of-league play showings from these 10 aren't crystal clear, but clear enough to know the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten are the three best overall. And, expectations from October as a factor, the ACC has to be considered the biggest disappointment of any conference in the group.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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