College Basketball Conference Power Rankings at Week 6

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2012

College Basketball Conference Power Rankings at Week 6

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    There were not a lot of major college basketball upsets of note this past week, but we were still treated to a number of interleague showdowns that helped shape the conference power rankings landscape.

    Unfortunately, the most impactful developments of Week Five were probably on the injury front. Top-ranked Indiana lost Austin Etherington for the season with a fractured kneecap, and UNLV will be without the services of superstar Mike Moser for an extended period of time thanks to a dislocated elbow.

    At least the Rebels of the Mountain West got a significant victory over California from the Pac-12.

    Read on to see how the conference power rankings stand after a week of bumps and bruises.

No. 10: WCC

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    If you have been keeping up with my conference power rankings, you know that the No. 10 spot is basically reserved by the WCC.

    The only major difference this week is that there is no longer an undefeated Gonzaga squad leading the way. Instead, it is a one-loss Gonzaga squad.

    The Bulldogs dropped their first game of the season Saturday to an upstart Illinois team that is turning heads itself. It was a back-and-forth contest much of the way, but Brandon Paul caught fire at the end and sent the Kennel Club home unhappy.

    In other conference news, Saint Mary’s picked up an easy win over Drake, Santa Clara bounced back from a couple of tough losses with a victory over something called Pacific Union and San Francisco won impressively over St. John’s of the Big East.

    Unfortunately for the Dons, they followed that effort up with a loss to an underrated Pacific team.

    BYU also defeated in-state rival Utah in a thriller, but just because the Cougars can contend with a Pac-12 team doesn’t necessarily mean they can hang with the Zags quite yet.

No. 9: Missouri Valley

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    The Missouri Valley conference was supposed to be all about Creighton this year, but so far Wichita State continues to steal headlines. The Shockers are now 9-0 after a win over Northern Colorado and have victories against the Big Ten, Big East, Mountain West and Atlantic 10 on their resume.

    As for the Bluejays, they were no less impressive with a thorough beat down of Nebraska and Akron this week as they look forward to an important trip to California on Saturday.

    This past week was more of a story of missed opportunities against improved competition than anything else for the rest of the MVC.

    Evansville lost to Murray State, Drake lost to Saint Mary’s, Indiana State followed a heartbreaking overtime defeat to New Mexico with an egg against Morehead State and Southern Illinois fell by one point to Western Kentucky.

    Perhaps the most disappointing news of the week for the league though was the loss by Illinois State to Wyoming. The Redbirds had almost defeated Louisville the game before and should compete for a tournament berth all season.

    A loss like that can come back to haunt Illinois State on selection Sunday, even if the Cowboys are undefeated right now.

No. 8: Atlantic 10

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    It wasn’t exactly a banner week for the typical contenders in the Atlantic 10, and that hurt its cause of becoming the top-ranked mid-major conference.

    There is no shame in losing to Duke, which is arguably the best team in the country, but Temple didn’t even keep the game close and fell 90-67 on a neutral floor (although the Owls did pick up a nice win versus Big Five opponent Villanova).

    The reigning king of the A-10, Xavier, had a shocking home loss to a terrible Vanderbilt team this week, and St. Bonaventure (the defending A-10 tournament champions) somehow fell to Arkansas State.

    However, the week wasn’t all bad, as Charlotte remained undefeated, Butler picked up a victory over a sneaky good Northwestern team and Dayton upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa. VCU also continued to gradually bounce back from a slow start.

    Right now, the one thing holding the A-10 back from the level of the Mountain West is the fact that it has 16 teams. While that gives it some extra depth, it also means there are plenty of really bad teams on the bottom of the league standings.

No. 7: Pac-12

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    I was one of those that really thought the Pac-12 was going to make significant strides this year, but so far it has continued to struggle outside of Arizona.

    The league is currently seventh in the RPI ratings according to RealTimeRPI.com, and that is exactly where I am putting it in my own conference ratings. The one saving grace for the Pac-12 is the fact that Oregon looks like a serious NCAA contender and borderline Top 25 team, which is not something everyone projected.

    Colorado and California both got off to hot starts, but they are a combined 1-4 in their last five games including Kansas’ 36-point beat down of the Buffaloes. Utah lost to BYU this week, Washington fell to Nevada and USC continues to be all kinds of terrible with five straight losses.

    In fact, the Trojans’ slide highlights why people shouldn’t get too worked up about UCLA’s close win over Texas—USC beat the Longhorns too.

    Arizona State has an impressive record, but that is almost completely due to the weak schedule the Sun Devils have played.

    Right now, the Pac-12 belongs to the Wildcats and Ducks. There just isn’t much behind them.

No. 6: Mountain West

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    The Pac-12’s loss is the Mountain West’s gain, as once again the mid-major league ranks ahead of one of the power conferences.

    New Mexico and Wyoming are both a perfect 10-0, and UNLV picked up an impressive win over California this week. Unfortunately for the Rebels, there was a price to pay as star Mike Moser may be lost for the season.

    San Diego State continued to bounce back from its early loss to Syracuse, and even Air Force has gotten off to a solid start. However, this past week wasn’t all good news for the Mountain West, which is why it is still in the six slot.

    Colorado State lost to Illinois-Chicago after losing to in-state rival Colorado, Fresno State fell to Washington State and Nevada lost a heartbreaker to Pacific. Although the Cougars did follow that up with a win over Washington, a trade I’m sure they will gladly take.

    The most surprising result of the week was Boise State’s 21-point defeat at the hands of a mediocre Utah squad after the Broncos had beaten Creighton and almost knocked off Michigan State earlier. It really looked like Boise was turning a corner, but this loss will give some supporters pause.

No. 5: SEC

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    I’ve been considering it for a couple of weeks, and I finally moved the SEC down a notch to the five spot.

    Florida is a Final Four contender, and Missouri is a threat to win the conference and at least make it to the Elite Eight, but the league is missing serious substance after that. Before you ask, Kentucky, Texas A&M and LSU getting fat against cream puffs does not count as substance.

    Alabama, once thought to be a borderline Top 25 team after a hot start, has lost its last two games (you know, the ones where it played actual competition), Mississippi fell to Middle Tennessee State this week and Arkansas lost to Michigan.

    Furthermore, Tennessee is allergic to scoring points and has dropped its last two games. The Vols failed to score 40 points in each.

    The best win of the week for anyone in the conference not named Gators or (Missouri) Tigers was Vanderbilt’s victory at Xavier. However, this is probably the weakest Commodore team in years, as evidenced by their measly 3-4 record.

No. 4: Big 12

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    Congratulations Big 12, you have now taken over the No. 4 spot in my conference power rankings from the SEC. It is more commonly known as the position that is actually closer to eight than three, despite physical proximity.

    Kansas proved this week it is a dark-horse Final Four contender (if the Jayhawks can ever be considered dark horses) by dismantling a decent Colorado team. However, the rest of the league is fool’s gold.

    Kansas State is 7-1 but only beat George Washington by three points this week and lost to the only good team on its schedule (Michigan) by double digits. The same can be said about Texas Tech’s 5-1 mark (destroyed by Arizona) and Oklahoma’s 6-2 record (Gonzaga and Arkansas).

    Iowa State lost to rival Iowa this week, and Baylor followed up the league’s best non-Kansas win over Kentucky by losing to perennially on-the-bubble Northwestern.

    Oh, and Texas is terrible so far.

    That leaves Oklahoma State as the one true challenger that can stop the potential renaming of the Big 12 to Kansas’ Playground. The Cowboys bounced back from their Virginia Tech loss with two easy wins this week and appeared to be closer to the team that destroyed NC State than the one that fell to the Hokies.

No. 3: ACC

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    Duke has the best resume in the country so far and continues to slowly gain ground on Indiana in the AP Poll in terms of first-place votes. However, it was a bit of a mixed bag this week for the rest of the ACC.

    First the good news: Maryland continues to impress since it lost the opener to Kentucky, albeit mostly against cupcakes. Miami is a surprising 5-1 and has a victory over Michigan State, Georgia Tech beat rival Georgia and Virginia pulled off a victory over Tennessee this week to move to 8-2.

    NC State defeated Connecticut from the Big East and is gradually improving its stock again. North Carolina dispatched of easy competition and is attempting to do the same with its own stock.

    As for the bad news, Boston College fell to Harvard, Wake Forest has lost three out of four after its Seton Hall game, Virginia Tech followed its impressive win over Oklahoma State with a loss to a mediocre West Virginia squad and Florida State was embarrassed by rival Florida.

    Even with some of those losses, the ACC remains firmly in the top three in these rankings.

No. 2: Big East

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    The Big East has nine teams that have a 7-2 record or better so far, and that includes the unblemished marks of Cincinnati and Syracuse.

    It was a week of mostly weak filler teams in the schedule for many of the conference’s squads, although a couple of contests were notable. Georgetown knocked off a struggling Texas team, Seton Hall defeated Wake Forest of the ACC and Marquette beat in-state rival Wisconsin of the Big Ten.

    There were also a number of losses of note, including Connecticut’s close four-point loss to North Carolina State, South Florida dropping one to Oklahoma State, Villanova falling to fellow Big Five member Temple and St. John’s losing to San Francisco.

    Sure the Big East would have liked to win those games, but none of them were egregious enough to knock the league out of the No. 2 spot.

No. 1: Big Ten

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    The Big Ten basically had one competent football team this year, and it was ineligible for the postseason. That’s not the case on the hardwood.

    The Big Ten currently has six teams ranked in the Top 25, four of which are in the top 10.

    Indiana, Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan all dominated cupcakes this week (yes, I am calling Arkansas and USC cupcakes). An uninspiring Michigan State team got a scare from Loyola but eventually pulled away in the second half.

    Iowa and Northwestern impressed this week with victories over Iowa State and Kentucky beating Baylor, although the Wildcats fell to Butler as well.

    However, the most impressive result of the week for the Big Ten was Illinois’ incredibly difficult win at Gonzaga. Few teams even have the guts to go into Spokane, let alone win there. Brandon Paul was dominant, and the Illini appear to be strong enough to compete in this deep league.

    The only real disappointments for the league so far has come in the form of Wisconsin and Purdue. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers, but even that formula didn’t call for a loss to Eastern Michigan. At least most of the Badgers’ losses have come against good teams.

    For now, the Big Ten remains atop the conference power rankings, thanks largely to Illinois' big victory.