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I came across this little diddy from the Sporting News. In an interview with Bill Eichenberger, T-Will was a bit critical of the sissy finesse style of play in the ACC:
Q: Where do you stand on the debate about which conference—the Big East or ACC—is college basketball's best?
A: The Big East. I don't know how you could even ask that. That's easy. That's not even a question.
Q: Why is that?
A: Look how physical we are. The ACC, that's not physical. Our last-place team in the Big East could win in the ACC. We're the toughest conference.
The date on this interview is Feb. 12th, which means it is safe to assume that Williams made these statements before his team was blown out by 33 by a Notre Dame team that had previously lost seven in a row.
The Irish also lost to UNC earlier in the season—by 15.
Aren't they in the ACC?
This quote from T-Will gives us the perfect chance to talk a little bit about who is better—the ACC or the Big East?
Simple logic tells us that these are the best two conferences in the country. For starters, they both have had four teams in or around the top ten for the last month. The conference RPI ratings (according to RealTimeRPI) has the ACC in first place and the Big East in third. Kenpom has the same breakdown (although he has the Pac-10 second as opposed to the Big Ten).
So the ACC has the advantage in the computer ratings. What about head to head?
The ACC holds an advantage there too, going 9-6 against the Big East. In games between teams that actually matter, the ACC holds a 4-3 advantage:
- UNC 102, Notre Dame 87
- BC 81, Providence 76
- Florida State 58, Cincinnati 47
- Duke 76, Georgetown 67
- UConn 76, Miami 63
- Seton Hall 77, Virginia Tech 73
- Pitt 56, Florida State 48
The ACC also holds the advantage in out-of-conference games as a whole. They have won 83 percent of their non-conference games, including a 27-18 record against BCS conference teams. The Big East has won just 78 percent of their games outside of the Big East, and have gone 21-20 against other BCS conference teams.
So if you believe the numbers, then it isn't hard to assume that the Big East is, in all actuality, a lesser conference than the ACC this year.
But if you read this blog, then you know that I'm not one to rely strictly on the numbers game. Me? I prefer the good-old-fashioned side-by-side comparison.
The ACC has 12 teams, and the Big East 16. The easiest way to compare these two conference is to break them into quarters, looking at the top four in the Big East versus the top three in the ACC (we are going to go based strictly off of standings in conference play):
- Top Tier: UConn, Pitt, Marquette, Louisville vs. UNC, Duke, Clemson
UNC and UConn (although the Dyson injury could hurt) have asserted themselves as the clear favorites in their respective leagues, and are probably the two favorites to win it all. Louisville, Marquette, Duke and Clemson are all talented enough to make a Final Four, but each team has been inconsistent enough that losing in the first weekend isn't out of the question. Pitt is the x-factor. With DeJuan Blair on the court, they may be able to give UConn a run for their money. But when he is in foul trouble (which is far too often), Pitt is a much different team. I'm going to give the Big East the slightest of advantages right now, simply because it looks like both Pitt and UConn are going to be getting #1 seeds.
- Second Tier: Villanova, Cincinnati, Providence, Syracuse vs. Florida State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Hard to believe, but Wake Forest (currently sitting at sixth in the ACC) was #1 in the country all of three weeks ago. While the Demon Deacons have dropped four of their last six, they are still one of the most talented teams in the country and once they figure out how to score when teams pack it in on defense, they will be fine. Syracuse is in a similar situation. They are talented enough to make a Final Four run, but are dealing with injury and intensity issues right now. Villanova is playing the best basketball out of anyone in this group, but Cinci and Providence are not quite in the same league as FSU and Va Tech. Advantage ACC.
- Third Tier: West Virginia, Seton Hall, Notre Dame, Georgetown vs. Boston College, Maryland, Miami FL
This one is tricky. West Virginia and BC are both tourney teams. Seton Hall and Maryland aren't. Miami and Georgetown are solidly on the bubble. Notre Dame could be too, if they continue to play like they did against Louisville instead of the way they played in the seven previous game. The question here becomes to you base your rankings on performance or on talent. The Big East has a big advantage in talent. Notre Dame and Georgetown have both reached the top 10 this year, but have been done in by poor play during a ridiculous stretch of tough games. West Virginia probably has the best resume of any team, but they still have no marquee wins to speak of (ND beat Louisville, Georgetown beat UConn, BC beat UNC, Maryland beat MSU, Miami beat Wake). I'm going to give this one to the Big East, just because I think that the Irish and the Hoyas are going to turn it around.
- Fourth Tier: St. John's, South Florida, Rutgers, DePaul vs. NC State, Virginia, Georgia Tech
Advantage ACC. Why? DePaul has not won a single conference game. Rutgers only win? DePaul.
So the ACC has the smallest of advantages when you break the conferences down into quadrants.
Does that mean the ACC is better?
Right now, yes.
But a huge reason for that is that Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Syracuse have fallen off the face of the top ten. Why have they struggled? Because each team has played a brutal schedule in recent weeks. Do this break down a month ago, and the Big East dominates the top two tiers.
Right now, it seems that the Big East may be better at the top, but it is hard to argue against the ACC being the deeper league right now. If you believe in Joe Lunardi (which a lot of us do), then think about this—eight of the 12 ACC teams are in his newest bracket, while just seven of the 16 Big East teams are currently dancing.
Until the under performing Big East teams turn it around, it looks as if the ACC is and will be the better conference.