The ACC and Big East have flexed their muscles this season, but which conference is the best?
Coming into the season the Big East was highly regarded as the best conference in College Basketball, one that could get up to 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament. UConn, Louisville and Pittsburgh were all ranked in the preseason top five, while Georgetown and Notre Dame came into the rankings in the lower half of the top 10.
The ACC came into the season with only four teams ranked, UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, and Miami, with UNC being everyone’s consensus No. 1.
Coming into the season I thought that Miami was overrated and that Clemson, who was unranked at the time, should have been ranked in their place. Many of the "experts" were projecting as little as five teams from the ACC to make the NCAA Tournament. Now that conference play has begun to heat up, the debate exists as to which is the better conference, the ACC or Big East?
Having grown up and still being a big fan of the Maryland Terrapins, I remember the days when the ACC was head and shoulders above every other conference in basketball. I believe that the ACC and Big East have historically been the two best conferences, but I believe that expansion and shifting of teams from conference to conference had originally hurt some of the talent in both conferences but now is what makes them the two best conferences.
A few years ago, long time Big East Schools, Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College moved to the ACC, a move that was mainly geared to increase the football talent of the conference and not really affect the basketball.
The Big East countered by taking some teams from lowly Conference USA. Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, DePaul and Marquette all moved to the Big East, expanding the conference to 16 teams. This expansion has helped make these conferences the two deepest and talented conferences this year.
Both conferences are top heavy and posses the nation’s top four teams in the country. Today’s new poll puts Wake Forest and Duke from the ACC as the countries top two teams, while UConn and Pittsburgh from the Big East came in at three and four respectively.
Both conferences have two other teams in the top 10. UNC comes in at No. 6 and Clemson comes in at No. 9, while the Big East counters with Syracuse at No. 8 and Marquette at No. 10.
The difference between the conferences can be seen with the number of teams outside the top 10, an area where the Big East has a big advantage. Louisville, Georgetown and Notre Dame and Villanova are all in the top 25, while West Virginia finishes just outside the rankings. Outside of the top the 10, the ACC has no team in the top 25, and only Miami and Florida St. even received votes in this week’s poll.
The difference in conference supremacy lies in the middle to bottom half of both conferences. The Big East has four more teams then the ACC, the comparison tough, but let us look at it anyway. DePaul, Rutgers, Seton Hall and South Florida would be eliminated, putting each conference at 12 teams. I know that this can’t happen but I am just doing it to make the comparison easier.
St. Johns, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Villanova are 12th through 8thth respectively in the standings. The ACC counters with Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia and North Carolina St. The combined records of the bottom four ACC teams are 39-26 while the record of the bottom four teams from the Big East is 32-38.
Earlier this season, the 11th seeded Boston College Eagles knocked off North Carolina, showing the depth and talent of the ACC. Both conferences do have some bad losses. Morgan St. of the MEAC beat both DePaul from the Big East, and Maryland from the ACC on each one’s home floor. South Florida lost to likes of Niagara, Wright St. and Oral Roberts at home while also losing to Virginia from the ACC. Seton Hall did beat Virginia Tech on neutral floor which is the best win of any bottom four
Big East team versus ACC teams: North Carolina and Duke have beaten Big East elites Georgetown and Notre Dame. The Big East has two teams, Pitt and Georgetown, with top 10 RPI’s while the ACC only has one, North Carolina.
Current bracketology projections have the Big East receiving No. 9 bid and the ACC receiving six bids. This means that the Big East will get nine out of 16 teams, over 50 percent of their league, in the NCAA tournament.
The ACC will get exactly half, 6 out 12 teams in the tournament with Boston College and Maryland being listed as “just out” of the tournament. Because of this I give a slight edge to the ACC. I believe that top to bottom the ACC is better then Big East. I believe the bottom four teams of the ACC, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Boston College and NC State are better teams then the bottom four of the Big East.
The Big East will undoubtedly get more teams in the NCAA tournament and will have at least eight teams ranked in the top 25 all season. The top nine teams in the Big East will beat up on each other and that will leave some quality teams with some average conference records but will not hurt their case to make the tournament.
Overall, I believe there are too many teams in the Big East and that hurts the conference. To look at a conference and match it up against another conference, you must look at all the teams, not just the top half. The Big East has eight teams in the top 25 to the four of the ACC, but the ACC is more balanced with no team with an under .500 record overall compared to two from the Big East.
I believe the National Champion will come from either conference and both conferences could produce multiple final four teams. Overall, I think the Big East might get more Sweet 16 teams, but if you compare the conferences right now, a very slight advantage goes to the ACC thanks to the bottom half of the conference.
Either way, both conferences will give us some quality, exciting basketball and the debate as to who is better will get settled in early April in Detroit, Michigan which is what makes college basketball the most exciting sport of them all.