Believe it or not, a full month of the 2013-14 college basketball season has already come and gone, which means it's time to power rank the 32 conferences.
Michigan State may have lost its grip on the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll this week, but will that be enough for the Big Ten to relinquish its stranglehold on the top spot in the conference rankings?
How are the American and Big East conferences holding up after all the conference realignment that happened this offseason?
Massachusetts has the highest RPI in the country. BYU and New Mexico check in at No. 8 and No. 11, respectively. What does this mean for the rankings of their conferences?
The spot reserved for the Atlantic 10 might surprise you.
All records and RPI rankings are accurate through the start of play on Tuesday, December 10.
You know those teams that show up in the NCAA tournament against top-ranked teams, but you have no idea in which state the school is even located?
They typically hail from these conferences.
32. Southwestern Athletic (23-53 overall, 0-17 vs. RPI Top 100)
31. Mid-Eastern Athletic (40-78 overall, 0-18 vs. RPI Top 100)
30. Southern (42-61 overall, 0-17 vs. RPI Top 100)
29. Northeast (33-62 overall, 1-24 vs. RPI Top 100)
28. Atlantic Sun (36-58 overall, 1-20 vs. RPI Top 100)
27. America East (25-57 overall, 2-13 vs. RPI Top 100)
26. Big Sky (28-43 overall, 1-17 vs. RPI Top 100)
25. Metro Atlantic Athletic (36-59 overall, 1-13 vs. RPI Top 100)
24. Big West (33-47 overall, 1-18 vs. RPI Top 100)
23. Southland (50-66 overall, 1-25 vs. RPI Top 100)
22. Big South (47-57 overall, 0-29 vs. RPI Top 100)
21. Summit League (35-37 overall, 1-16 vs. RPI Top 100)
20. Western Athletic (40-42 overall, 2-15 vs. RPI Top 100)
Don't be fooled by the record near .500, because the WAC is still pretty bad. New Mexico State can hang with quality teams, but the Aggies are this conference's only prayer at pulling off an upset. Case in point, UMKC and Utah Valley have played four games against ranked teams, losing by an average of 35.5 points per game.
19. Ohio Valley (54-65 overall, 1-17 vs. RPI Top 100)
The OVC did produce arguably the biggest surprise of the first month of the season when Belmont upset North Carolina. However, eight of the 12 teams in this conference are below .500, and Tennessee State is one of the four remaining teams in the country that hasn't won a game yet this season.
18. Patriot League (44-41 overall, 1-21 vs. RPI Top 100)
To this point in the rankings, the conferences were either completely feckless or had just one or two teams worthy of carrying the load. The Patriot, however, is made up mostly of teams that are ever-so-slightly better than average. There certainly won't be multiple teams from the Patriot in the NCAA tournament, but there's a strong chance that its representative will at least come to play.
17. Sun Belt (40-38 overall, 2-21 vs. RPI Top 100)
Between Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky, the Sun Belt has a handful of teams that might have a puncher's chance against major conference opponents.
16. Colonial (37-45 overall, 4-24 vs. RPI Top 100)
It has a record well below .500, but the Colonial is one of the few middling conferences that actually challenged itself in playing 11 games against the AP Top 25. Perhaps Delaware and Drexel were the only teams who looked even remotely competitive in the process, but this conference has been much better than expected.
15. Ivy League (37-32 overall, 3-15 vs. RPI Top 100)
Harvard won't be catching anyone off guard after pulling off an upset over New Mexico in last year's NCAA tournament. This conference is more than just the Crimson, though. Both Princeton and Brown are doing a fine job of representing those with outrageous SAT scores. Even with Cornell's 0-10 record, the conference is still five games above .500 on the year.
14. Horizon League (46-42 overall, 3-22 vs. RPI Top 100)
The Horizon has been pretty lackluster since losing Butler before the 2012-13 season, but this could be a strong year. Green Bay has already upset Virginia and nearly upset Wisconsin. Oakland has the worst record of the bunch, but the Golden Grizzlies could upset just about anyone if and when Travis Bader is on fire.
13. Conference USA (87-61 overall, 6-31 vs. RPI Top 100)
These massive conferences are tough to read.
Southern Miss is the only member of the 16-team C-USA with less than two losses, and the Golden Eagles lost by 31 to Louisville. On the other hand, Charlotte won the Maui Invitational and UAB upset North Carolina. The bottom half of the conference is pretty terrible, but any one of the top six teams would be a tough out in the NCAA tournament.
12. Mid-American (53-36 overall, 6-15 vs. RPI Top 100)
Save for Toledo's unblemished record slowly but surely gathering national attention, it's been a pretty doggone quiet month for the MAC. Buy stock while you still can. Eastern Michigan, Kent State and Ohio are capable of hanging with anybody.
11. Missouri Valley (53-33 overall, 7-14 vs. RPI Top 100)
Is Wichita State strong enough to carry the other nine teams, which are a collective 3-14 against the RPI Top 100? The Valley doesn't quite belong in the top 10, but it shouldn't be forgotten about, either. Just ask Dayton and Notre Dame whether Illinois State and Indiana State are any good.
Overall Record: 62-32
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 0-10
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 0-7
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 6-4
Teams in RPI Top 50: New Mexico (11), San Diego State (13), Boise State (28), Utah State (50)
Congratulations to the Mountain West for putting together a 56-11 record against teams outside the RPI Top 100, but it'd be nice to see some quality nonconference wins. From an RPI standpoint, the best win this conference has was New Mexico's double-overtime win over UAB.
It's better than pulling a North Carolina and losing to UAB, but it's hardly a win upon which to hang a conference's hat.
Perhaps most notably of the bunch, Boise State hadn't played a single game against the RPI Top 100 until Tuesday night's game against Kentucky—which was not included in these totals. And yet, the Broncos somehow rank as one of the 30 best teams in the country.
Don't forget about this slide when the NCAA tournament comes around. There will inevitably be one or two teams from this conference that smell like roses after beating each other up for two months, but no MWC team has done anything to this point in the season to indicate that it is capable of winning multiple games in the tourney.
Overall Record: 75-33
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 0-10
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 1-6
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 9-9
Teams in RPI Top 50: Arkansas (16), Missouri (20), Florida (34)
It certainly didn't take long for the SEC to go from two teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 10 to just barely cracking the top 10 in the conference power rankings.
Going 1-16 against the RPI Top 50 tends to have that effect.
When all is said and done, it will likely be LSU and Ole Miss who determine how strong the SEC becomes. If it's just three or four teams beating up on the Auburns and Georgias of the conference, not much is going to change. Kentucky and Florida might go 16-2 in conference play, but we'll forever be wondering if they are good teams who struggled in November or average teams who thrived against a weak conference.
On the other hand, if Arkansas and Missouri stay strong while LSU and Ole Miss become relevant, suddenly nearly 50 percent of the conference is a threat to make the NCAA tournament—making a 16-2 conference record infinitely more valuable.
For the time being, though, it's a pretty sad state of affairs for a conference that used to be one of the "Power Six."
Overall Record: 62-27
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 1-9
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 5-2
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 5-4
Teams in RPI Top 50: BYU (8), Saint Mary's (15), Pacific (29), Gonzaga (36)
When Gonzaga is the fourth-best team in the conference while being ranked in the Top 20 in the AP Poll, things are going pretty well for the WCC.
Both Saint Mary's and Pacific have been pleasant surprises in the opening month, combining to go 6-1 against the RPI Top 100 while posting an overall record of 14-1.
If the other six teams in the conference weren't so completely helpless, the WCC would rank even higher. The drop from Gonzaga to Portland (RPI No. 163) isn't exactly a small step. It would be a pretty big upset if any of the top four teams lost to any of the bottom six teams this season.
Nevertheless, the WCC is going to have four teams contending for an NCAA berth throughout much of the season. That's certainly something we've never said before.
Overall Record: 64-24
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 1-8
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 4-5
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 9-7
Teams in RPI Top 50: Villanova (7), St. John's (45), Georgetown (49)
This ain't your daddy's Big East.
Were it not for Villanova's wins over Kansas and Iowa in the Battle 4 Atlantis, this conference would be a collective 0-11 vs. RPI Top 30.
The computer numbers will inevitably improve.
Though there are only three teams in the RPI Top 50, nine of the 10 Big East teams are currently in the RPI Top 100. Enter conference play with numbers like those and the top three or four teams end up looking like strong candidates for deep runs in the NCAA tournament. Just ask anybody who believed in any team from the Mountain West last season.
Only time will tell whether the individual components of the conference actually improve. Both Georgetown and Marquette have been considerably less impressive than originally advertised, but upcoming games against Kansas and New Mexico, respectively, could change that narrative in a hurry.
Overall Record: 63-24
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 1-5
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 3-4
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 6-3
Teams in RPI Top 50: Connecticut (10), Memphis (24)
The newly formed American is racking up a solid winning percentage, but it's mostly doing so against subpar teams. Overall, the conference is just 10-12 against the RPI Top 100. Four of those 10 wins belong to Connecticut, and three of them were by less than three points.
Granted, RPI numbers are a bit funky at this point in the season. Look no further than Louisville being the 107th-best team according to RPI for evidence of that fact. However, these teams haven't been challenged much and haven't exactly thrived in those challenges.
Aside from Memphis' win in the rematch against Oklahoma State, the American is 0-7 against the RPI Top 33.
There are ample opportunities for improvement in the next few weeks before conference play begins—notably Southern Methodist @ Wyoming, Memphis vs. Florida, Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh and Louisville @ Kentucky—but it's looking like neither the old Big East nor the new Big East will be one of the five best conferences this year.
Overall Record: 99-39
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 2-12
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 3-9
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 19-9
Teams in RPI Top 50: Syracuse (5), Pittsburgh (18), North Carolina (21), Virginia (40), Virginia Tech (48)
We've already mentioned elsewhere that RPI numbers are even less reliable than usual this early in the season—for example, Virginia Tech in the RPI Top 50 and Duke is not—but try to digest the fact that the ACC is 5-21 against the RPI Top 50.
For sake of comparison, the four yet-to-be-revealed conferences have a combined record of 27-48 in those games. Their .360 winning percentage is nearly double the ACC's .192 mark
Boston College is the only team in the conference with a losing record, but 51 of the ACC's 99 wins have come against teams with an RPI of 200 or worse—and only seven of those games were played away from home.
Having four teams ranked in the Top 30 of the AP Poll may make it look like the conference is doing well, but the ACC is a far cry from its annual position among the two or three best conferences in the country.
Overall Record: 79-36
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 4-8
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 2-3
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 8-15
Teams in RPI Top 50: Massachusetts (1), George Washington (35), Dayton (42), Saint Louis (43), VCU (46)
That's not a misprint. After one month of play, the Massachusetts Minutemen have the best RPI in the country. If you placed that bet before the season began, please enjoy your new life as a multimillionaire.
The rest of the conference isn't too shabby, either.
After Butler, Charlotte, Temple and Xavier departed for other conferences this summer, I assumed that VCU would be able to moonwalk through the latter half of the season en route to the NCAA tournament. To the contrary, there are six viable candidates for the tourney, and not one of the 13 teams enters play on December 10 with a sub-.500 record.
George Washington has played five consecutive games against teams from traditional power conferences. The Colonels went 4-1 in those games, and deserved way more than two votes in the latest AP Poll. Massachusetts and VCU are a combined 9-1 against the RPI Top 100, including a 3-0 record against the RPI Top 25.
We've spent the past few seasons debating whether or not the A-10 should be considered a power conference.
It's safe to say that debate is over.
Overall Record: 78-23
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 3-7
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 5-5
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 13-6
Teams in RPI Top 50: Colorado (6), Arizona (12), Oregon (14), UCLA (32)
This conference has come a long, long way in less than two years.
The Pac-12 sent only two teams to the 2012 NCAA tournament—Colorado was seeded at No. 11 after winning the conference tournament, and California was sent to a play-in game where it lost to South Florida. California (37) was the only team to finish the season in the RPI Top 60.
Staying up past midnight on the East Coast on Thursdays and Saturdays to find out the winner of various Pac-12 games was self-induced torture.
This year, it'll be a joy to lose sleep to watch this conference duke it out.
Arizona is a legitimate threat to win it all this season. We might just be a few weeks away from deciding that Colorado and Oregon belong in that club as well. Arizona State might not be very good, but who doesn't want to watch Jahii Carson on a nightly basis?
Overall Record: 67-18
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 3-10
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 1-3
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 20-2
Teams in RPI Top 50: Kansas (2), Baylor (4), Oklahoma State (9), Iowa State (19), Oklahoma (26), Texas (30)
The top six teams in the Big 12 have yet to lose a game to a team outside the RPI Top 25. Seven of the 10 teams have at least two wins over the RPI Top 100.
The jury is still out on Oklahoma and Texas, but the top four teams are absolutely candidates to make the Elite Eight, if not candidates to win the entire NCAA tournament.
If the Big Ten didn't have three teams ranked in the AP Top 5, it would be difficult to argue that there is a better conference out there right now than the Big 12.
In related news, I hope you took my advice on Oklahoma State in the preseason when they were getting 35/1 odds to win the national championship, because the Cowboys are currently listed at 6/1. If you did, you could theoretically sell that ticket today at a better than 400 percent profit.
Overall Record: 90-23
Record vs. RPI Top 25: 0-11
Record vs. RPI 26-50: 9-1
Record vs. RPI 51-100: 12-7
Teams in RPI Top 50: Wisconsin (3), Ohio State (22), Michigan State (23), Iowa (27), Illinois (37), Indiana (38)
Yes, it's troublesome that the Big Ten is winless against the RPI Top 25.
No, that doesn't change the fact that three of the five best teams in the country—in the eyes of the AP voters, at any rate—are from this conference.
We could get cute and put the Big 12 at No. 1 because it has better wins and better teams based on RPI. Then again, Michigan is the worst team in the Big Ten based on RPI, which is simply madness.
We could also try to penalize the Big Ten for going just 6-6 in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge more or less designed to determine the best conference in the country.
We're going to play it safe, though, and continue to assume that this is the best conference in the nation for (at least) a second consecutive season. Until someone can beat Michigan State at full health or beat either Ohio State or Wisconsin at all, there's no reason to believe otherwise.
Now, if only the Big Ten could break its streak of 13 consecutive years without a national championship...