College Basketball Conference Power Rankings, Week 10

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

College Basketball Conference Power Rankings, Week 10

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    Non-conference play is always entertaining and helps shed some light on where the conferences stand relative to each other, but there’s just something special about league games.

    The intensity, passion and effort are ramped up, and basketball palaces finally start to completely fill to capacity as bitter rivals and longtime foes face off.

    Unfortunately for this exercise, conference games don't shed objective light on who the nation's best conference is. After all, the Big Ten picked up both an embarrassing loss and impressive victory when Illinois beat down Ohio State on Saturday. Now, the power rankings have become more subjective than ever.

    With that in mind, read on to see where the conferences rank against each as we are now in Week 10. Also, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below.

No. 10: Missouri Valley Conference

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    I thought the West Coast Conference promotion to the No. 9 spot would only last a week, but I think the one-two punch of Creighton and Wichita State in the Missouri Valley comes up a bit short when compared to the top four teams in the WCC. This is simply because four is greater than two, not because there is anything wrong with the Bluejays or Shockers.

    That being said, the MVC’s top two teams had a solid start to conference play, with Wichita State picking up a tricky win at Bradley and then defeating Drake, while Creighton staved off Indiana State and Illinois State.

    Speaking of the Redbirds, a team that has March Madness aspirations, they have to be disappointed with their 0-3 start in the MVC.

    The league should pick up two spots in the Big Dance for sure, but beyond that, there are more questions than answers. If another team does seize a bid, don’t be surprised if it is Bradley or Indiana State.

No. 9: West Coast Conference

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    The emergence of Santa Clara has been nothing but good news for a West Coast Conference that has been looking to establish some depth behind the annual Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s clash.

    The Broncos gave Duke a serious scare in Cameron Indoor in their last nonconference game. They also started league play with a victory over San Francisco and gave Gonzaga all it could handle on Saturday.

    Although Santa Clara has been impressive, the argument can also be made that it is still only the fourth best team in the WCC.

    Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are off to the quick starts in the conference season—like many expected—and BYU has reestablished itself after a rocky beginning to the year that featured the team drop two of its first four games.

    The Cougars are now 12-4 overall and 2-0 in the WCC, and they should challenge the Bulldogs and Gaels for much of the season.

    Gonzaga is still the favorite, but don’t carve its name into the league title trophy just yet.

No. 8: Atlantic 10

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    Oh Atlantic 10, I feel like we do this every Monday, but once again, it was another week of what-could-have-been outcomes in non-conference play for you.

    Temple blew a late lead at Kansas and a chance to pick up a huge victory for a league that already has wins over Syracuse, Indiana and North Carolina under its belt. La Salle choked away a second half lead at Miami, Xavier missed an opportunity late at Wake Forest and George Washington lost at Georgia despite a halftime lead.

    Nevertheless, the A-10 has some serious quality this year. Butler continues to roll, VCU has officially established itself as a serious threat in March, Charlotte is 12-2, Temple is dangerous (just ask Syracuse) and teams like Dayton and Saint Louis should not be taken lightly.

    The only real concern for the conference right now is the fact that Xavier is just plain awful, and preseason favorite Saint Joseph’s doesn’t look like a world-beater either.

    Don’t be surprised if the A-10 gets a number of bids on Selection Sunday.

No. 7: SEC

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    The SEC is behind the other power conferences when it comes to these power rankings and on the calendar.

    The league still has not begun conference play, meaning there were only a few notable scores this past week. Memphis knocked off in-state rival Tennessee, Auburn shocked Florida State and Bucknell gave Missouri a huge scare in Columbia.

    The Bison are better than many think they are, so don’t look too much into that game for Missouri.

    Nevertheless, it is still a down year for the SEC in what will probably be a two-team race between Florida and Missouri, unless Kentucky can show why it was ranked so highly in the preseason once league play begins.

    It won't be surprising if multiple mid-major conferences end up with more tournament bids than the SEC in March.

No. 6: Pac-12

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    What do we make of Arizona at this point?

    The Wildcats are still undefeated—a controversial call at the end of the game against Colorado notwithstanding—but every game seems to be a challenge. Winning is obviously the most important thing, but few people will believe Arizona has enough to make a Final Four run if its play doesn’t pick up.

    As for the Buffaloes, they appeared to be suffering from a post-Arizona hangover on Sunday and lost to Arizona State, dropping their record to a disappointing 0-2 in the conference.

    The Pac-12 would benefit as a whole if UCLA can continue to play well—the Bruins have won seven consecutive games—and Oregon shakes off that triple-overtime loss to UTEP.

    I can’t see more than three bids for this conference at this point, but there are a few teams that can play their way into contention, such as Arizona State.

No. 5: Big 12

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    If you think this is going to be a one-team race all season, you may have to step back and give Kansas State a second glance.

    Don’t get me wrong, Kansas is still definitely the favorite in the Big 12 (when are the Jayhawks not the favorite?), but the Wildcats are better than they are getting credit for. Their only two losses came to the likes of Michigan and Gonzaga (no shame in that), and they also have victories over Florida and Oklahoma State on their resume.

    The Jayhawks may also potentially be challenged by the likes of Baylor and Oklahoma State, but I have less faith in those squads than the Wildcats.

    As for Kansas, it held off an impressive late charge by Temple over the weekend and continues to look impressive since that early loss to Michigan State—although the Ohio State victory may not be as great as once assumed.

    The Big 12 will move up these power rankings if other teams emerge outside of Kansas throughout league play and remain legitimate threats until March.

No. 4: Mountain West

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    The lion’s share of the attention when it comes to the Mountain West has been directed at UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico, and rightly so. However, it’s time to start noticing the overall depth this league brings.

    Colorado State is 13-2 and just picked up two impressive wins over St. Bonaventure and UTEP, a team that defeated Oregon. Boise State is also 12-2, has won six consecutive games and is the only team to have beaten Creighton this year.

    Oh, and Wyoming is still undefeated.

    Maybe by March the Mountain West will still be the three-horse race that many expected between the Rebels, Aztecs and Lobos, but for now, there are other teams that are making the league look very impressive as a whole.

    The league play fun starts this week.

No. 3: ACC

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    Is there a bigger favorite in the entire country to win a conference than Duke is in the ACC?

    Maryland is 13-1 but has beaten zero quality teams. North Carolina State barely squeaked by a mediocre-at-best Boston College squad this weekend, and perennial powerhouse North Carolina is in serious trouble after its league-opening loss to Virginia.

    What’s more, Florida State lost to Auburn this week (losing to Mercer is one thing, Seminoles, but an SEC team?), and I just can’t shake Miami’s loss to Florida Gulf Coast, even if it was early.

    So, not to be the bearer of bad news for all the Duke-haters out there, but the Blue Devils should run rampant in an ACC that may not be as good as people assumed.

    That being said, the Terrapins have a chance to prove their mettle in their next four games versus Florida State, at Miami, versus North Carolina State and at North Carolina. The ACC would benefit from a challenger emerging.

No. 2: Big East

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    Three games in the Big East stood out to me this week: Cincinnati’s loss to St. John’s, Georgetown’s loss to Marquette and Rutgers' victory over Pittsburgh.

    Clearly the winner in each of those games was also a Big East team, so it wouldn’t be fair to punish the conference too much, but I think these scores highlight the fact that the Big East may not be as deep as once thought.

    Cincinnati and Pittsburgh played incredibly easy schedules in non-conference play and may be ill-prepared to challenge Louisville and Syracuse over the course of a long season. Furthermore, Georgetown’s offensive struggles are going to haunt the Hoyas all year.

    In my opinion, that leaves Notre Dame as the one true threat to that one-two punch for a Big East crown. The Irish don’t really have many impressive wins—although victories over Kentucky and BYU are decent—but their only loss was in overtime on a neutral floor to Saint Joseph’s.

    The Cincinnati versus Notre Dame clash on Monday will be one to keep an eye on.

No. 1: Big Ten

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    It’s official: Ohio State was overrated to start the season.

    The Buckeyes joined fellow conference teams Michigan and Indiana in the top five to start the season, but at this point, Thad Matta’s squad is 0-3 against the only good teams that it has played. Furthermore, it was completely embarrassed on Saturday against Illinois.

    However, there is plenty of good news for the Big Ten that overshadows Ohio State’s struggles.

    Michigan may be the best team in the country, at this point, and it completely dominated tricky Northwestern and Iowa teams. Minnesota is a legitimate top-10 team, Wisconsin is playing better after early struggles, Illinois looked great on the other side of the coin in that OSU game and Indiana continues to bounce back from that shocking Butler loss.

    Moreover, Michigan State may be exactly where it wants to be at this point—lying in the weeds and being completely overlooked as conference play ramps up. Seriously though, don't sleep on the Spartans. 

    The Big Ten is still the best conference, and it will look to stay that way for the entire season.