Power Ranking the Top Conferences in College Basketball Entering 2013-14 Season
Conference realignment has had a major impact on college sports over the past few years.
Despite college football receiving the bulk of the media attention, many new conferences will also have a new look when the 2013-14 college basketball season begins.
How has realignment affected the balance of power among the conferences? Are certain conferences climbing the ladder with new members while others take a step back and deal with attrition?
The following list is a power ranking of the top conferences as we enter the 2013-14 season.
8. Mountain West
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If power rankings were based on RPI, it would be a major snub to have the Mountain West in the eight spot. The MWC finished last season as the third best conference in America based on RPI rankings.
Because of that RPI ranking and regular season success, the Mountain West was a popular conference when people were filling out their 2013 NCAA Tournament brackets. That momentum didn’t help the conference once the tournament began.
Despite putting five teams in the NCAA tournament, the Mountain West finished with only two victories.
Expectations are more tempered heading into the 2013-14 season but UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State have established a consistent level of success while Colorado State and Air Force appear to be moving in the right direction.
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The 2012-13 season was a surprising one for the SEC. Perennial power Kentucky was down while Ole Miss and Florida emerged as the teams with postseason success.
The conference should be stronger in the 2013-14 season as Kentucky will almost certainly bounce back as one of the best teams in the country and Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Missouri all have the potential to be Top 25 teams.
The biggest question for the SEC will be whether or not the teams that have struggled in recent years can begin to take a step forward.
Programs such as Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Auburn need to become relevant again for the league to move up this list.
6. American Athletic Conference
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The new American Athletic Conference gets the honor of having the defending national champion as a member in its first year of existence. Unfortunately for the conference, the Louisville Cardinals will only be a member for one year before departing to join the ACC in 2014.
Most people can’t even name all the schools in the AAC but this conference should have some success in basketball next season.
Louisville is a legitimate contender to repeat as national champion and Memphis, Cincinnati, UConn and Temple are all very capable of developing into very dangerous NCAA tournament teams.
It should be an exciting inaugural season of college basketball for the American Athletic Conference with some high quality play.
5. Big 12
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The Big 12 enters the 2013-14 season with a number of teams who are counting on young players with tremendous potential.
Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor all have NBA lottery picks on their roster, but it remains to be seen how much that potential translates into actual success on the court. The conference could have the two best players in the country in Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins.
Iowa State and Kansas State also have to deal with the issue of losing experienced seniors in order to maintain the success they achieved last season.
If young players in these programs can step up, the Big 12 will quickly climb in the conference power rankings during the season.
4. Big East
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The new Big East conference is a wonderful blend of rich basketball tradition and new energy.
Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s are all programs with incredible tradition and newcomers like Xavier, Butler and Creighton are teams that have all outgrown the misused label of “mid-major” in recent years.
The Big East has a great chance to put as many as seven teams in the 2014 NCAA tournament and it’s a league with a number of very good teams.
The conference lacks an elite national championship contender at the top but the quality will show in its depth.
3. Pac 12
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For whatever reason, the selection committee for the 2013 NCAA tournament didn’t think highly of the Pac-12, which became clear when the Pac-12 tournament champion Oregon Ducks were given a No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region.
The conference should receive more respect in the coming season with a number of very strong teams.
Arizona and UCLA will likely compete for the top spot in the Pac-12 throughout the season while Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and California should also not be taken lightly.
If Andy Enfield can bring his success and exciting style of play from Florida Gulf Coast to USC, it makes the conference even better.
The coaching talent in the Pac-12 makes it one of the strongest leagues in college basketball and will make things extremely competitive this season.
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No conference gained more in conference expansion and the impact it will have on college basketball than the ACC.
The league adds three potential NCAA tournament teams this season in Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, and gets an additional one next season with the arrival of Louisville.
Virginia, Boston College and Georgia Tech are all capable of having great seasons while Duke and Syracuse will likely enter the season ranked in the Top 10. Depending on the status of P.J. Hairston, North Carolina could also find itself in the Top 10.
It will be a year of transition for the ACC but it should be a transition that significantly increases the quality of play in the league.
1. Big Ten
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The Big Ten was the best conference in college basketball last season and the trend should continue again this year.
Many teams will be forced to replace a significant amount of talent from last year, but these are programs that simply reload instead of rebuild.
Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State are the premier teams in the Big Ten and all three will be popular preseason Final Four picks. However, many of the teams in the league would be favored to win other leagues in college basketball.
Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota are all teams with Sweet 16-ability.
From top to bottom, the Big Ten is the best college basketball has to offer.