With the beginning of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament days away, and many people preparing to fill in their brackets, the underlying question always presents itself; How good are these teams’ conferences compared to the competition they will be facing? The ranking system is flawed in many ways due to the fact that some teams face tougher competition throughout their seasons than others. A good example would be Gonzaga compared to Baylor and/or Illinois. It is hard to tell which team is the better team. Gonzaga is undefeated, but the majority of their schedule is against teams that do not compare in skill or talent. Illinois and Baylor, on the other hand, regularly face teams that are close in skill and talent each week. The focus from here is to compare the Power Five conferences and the BIG EAST to see the strength of their schedules and which conference has the upper hand going into tournament play.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE
The BIG 12 currently has seven teams ranked in the top 25. Those teams are (2) Baylor, (10) West Virginia, (11) Kansas, (12) Oklahoma State, and (13) Texas, Texas Tech (20), and (25) Oklahoma. This is the highest number of teams any conference has in the top 25. When looking at the strength of schedule of the BIG 12, there are two teams out of the top ten hardest schedules. Those teams are Kansas and Baylor. After that, the remaining teams are ranked in the mid to late teens and twenties. From this data you can conclude that the BIG 12 has a tough conference play but does not compare to the BIG TEN.
- A bold prediction is that BIG 12 teams have the potential to compete with BIG TEN teams and make it deep into the tournament, with at least one team making it to the final four.
The BIG EAST currently has two teams ranked in the top 25. Those teams are (10) Villanova and (14) Creighton. When looking at the strength of schedule in the BIG EAST, Villanova has the toughest schedule which is ranked approximately 27th in the country. All other BIG EAST teams rank behind that in the 30s and 40s. Villanova has had success in the tournament in the past, but based on the strength of schedule, I would not expect anything special from the BIG EAST this tournament.
- A bold prediction would be that no BIG EAST teams will make it to the elite eight. Too many other conferences are better this year and it will show in the tournament.
BIG TEN CONFERENCE
The BIG TEN currently has five teams ranked in the top 25. Those teams are (3) Illinois, (4) Michigan, (5) Iowa, (9) Ohio State, and (20) Purdue. This is the second highest number of teams from any other conference in men’s college basketball. When looking at the strength of schedule the BIG TEN faced this season, the top five hardest schedules were all from the BIG TEN conference. and eight of the ten toughest schedules were from the BIG TEN. What this shows is the overall strength of each team in the BIG TEN conference. From here, you can conclude that BIG TEN teams have a greater advantage over other teams in the tournament due to the difficult opponents they faced throughout this season.
- A bold prediction is that multiple BIG TEN teams will make it to the final four.
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE (ACC)
The ACC currently has three teams ranked in the top 25. Those teams are (15) Florida State, (16) Virginia, and (22) Virginia Tech. When looking at the strength of schedule for the ACC, Clemson had the toughest schedule ranked around 25th in the country. After Clemson, the strength of the remaining tails off greatly. The strength of the ACC is similar to the BIG EAST, so I would not expect too much from the teams in the ACC.
- A bold prediction would be that the ACC will have a team make it to the elite eight.
SOUTH EASTERN CONFERENCE (SEC)
The SEC currently has two teams ranked in the top 25, and neither of these teams is Kentucky! They are 6) Alabama and (8) Arkansas. The strength of schedule for the SEC was tough this year with Kentucky having the 13th hardest schedule in the country. The remaining SEC teams’ schedules were ranked in the late teens through the mid 20s. After the BIG TEN and the BIG 12, the SEC had the toughest schedule for conference play making many of those teams’ sleepers in the tournament.
- A bold prediction is that an SEC team will make it to the final four, with Alabama or unranked LSU being the front runners.
PAC 12 CONFERENCE
The PAC 12 currently has two teams in the top 25. Those teams are (23) Colorado, and (24) University of Southern California (USC). The strength of schedule for the PAC 12 was awful this year. Colorado had the 50th hardest schedule in the country followed by USC at 51st. This conference did not have the fire power they usually have on their rosters this year.
- A bold prediction for the PAC 12 would be that no teams make it to the sweet sixteen.
THE REMAINING TEAMS
There are four teams remaining from conferences outside of the power five. These teams are (1) Gonzaga, (7) Houston, (18) Loyola Illinois, and (19) San Diego State. The toughest schedule from these teams were Gonzaga at 40th in the country and Houston at 77th in the country. That is why it is hard to compare these teams to the BIG TEN and PAC 12.
- A bold prediction is that no team will see the elite eight, including Gonzaga.
|AP Top 25 Rank||College/University Name||National Schedule Rank||Conference|
|9||Ohio State||5th||BIG TEN|
|10||West Virginia||12th||BIG 12|
|12||Oklahoma State||18th||BIG 12|
|19||San Diego State||90th||WCC|
|20||Texas Tech||17th||BIG 12|
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Source of Rankings and Strength of Schedule:
NCAA College Basketball Polls, College Basketball Rankings, NCAA Basketball Polls – ESPN. (2021, March 8). ESPN.Com. https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/rankings