Table of Contents:
This is the seventh part in my series of Prestige Rankings for NCAA Basketball over the past 24 years. My rankings are a more accurate and simplistic approach to the Prestige Rankings released by ESPN several weeks ago. Please refer to the table of contents to view other articles in the series.
Here I will unveil all of the teams in conferences rated No. 10-12, and all of the teams rated No. 16-20.
Conferences: (Conference Rank, Team, Points, Overall Rank, ESPN’s Overall Rank)
12) Horizon League – Average Point Total: 54.00
1) Butler – 174 (61, 47)
2) Wisconsin-Milwaukee – 86 (T-96, T-124)
3) Detroit – 68 (T-114, T-165)
4) Valparaiso – 62 (116, 56)
T-5) Cleveland State – 50 (T-121, T-185)
T-5) Loyola (IL) – 50 (T-121, T-233)
7) Wisconsin-Green Bay – 40 (T-132, T-105)
8) Illinois-Chicago – 6 (T-175, T-172)
9) Wright State – 4 (T-191, T-177)
10) Youngstown State – 0 (T-273, 287)
The Horizon League is a very balanced conference, especially in the middle. The top seven teams all have at least one tournament victory in the past 24 seasons. The top six teams all have at least two tournament victories.
Butler is far and away the most prestigious program in this conference though. They have more than double the point total of the second place team, Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Butler has two Sweet Sixteen appearances (2003 and 2007) and two second round exits (2001 and 2008). They also have three other tournament appearances, the first of which in this time period did not come until 1997.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee is another team with only recent tournament success. Almost all of their points come from a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2005 and a second round exit in 2006.
It should also be pointed out that all of Valparaiso’s tournament success came as members of the Mid-Continent Conference (which has turned into the Summit League). Valparaiso joined the Horizon League in 2007, so they have only played two seasons in this conference.
Youngstown State is the only team in this conference without an NCAA tournament appearance since 1985.
11) Missouri Valley Conference – Average Point Total: 68.60
1) Southern Illinois – 146 (T-67, T-53)
2) Creighton – 114 (83, 59)
3) Missouri State – 92 (T-90, 55)
4) Bradley – 88 (T-93, T-102)
5) Illinois State – 72 (T-102, T-102)
6) Wichita State – 56 (T-118, 160)
T-7) Northern Iowa – 40 (T-132, T-214)
T-7) Evansville – 40 (T-132, T-148)
9) Indiana State – 36 (T-149, T-260)
10) Drake – 2 (T-226, T-274)
The Missouri Valley is the first conference to appear in the rankings with two teams eclipsing the 100 point mark. Southern Illinoisand Creighton have had the most tournament success of these teams, with the Salukis topping the Blue Jays for the top spot in the conference.
The Missouri Valley has recently established itself as the strongest mid-major conference in college basketball, but many teams have had tournament success in this conference throughout the past 24 seasons.
Every single team in this conference, except Drake, has recorded a tournament victory in the time period. Drake actually dominated the league last season and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, but they fell victim to No. 12-seeded Western Kentucky in a thrilling overtime upset.
Southern Illinois has two Sweet Sixteen appearances and one second round tournament exit, with all of their tournament wins coming since 2002. Creighton has three first round victories, but has not yet reached the Sweet Sixteen. Both of these teams tied for the most tournament appearances in the last 24 seasons with nine each.
Missouri State, Bradley, and Wichita State all have Sweet Sixteen appearances (Missouri State also has one second round exit). Illinois State has two first round victories, and Northern Iowa, Evansville, and Indiana State all have one first round tournament victory each.
13) West Coast Conference – Average Score: 72.50
1) Gonzaga – 318 (41, 26)
2) Loyola Marymount – 94 (T-87, T-161)
3) Santa Clara – 72 (T-102, T-145)
4) Pepperdine – 46 (T-124, T-80)
5) San Diego – 38 (T-142, T-148)
6) Saint Mary’s – 8 (T-163, T-206)
T-7) San Francisco – 2 (T-226, T-229)
T-7) Portland – 2 (T-226, T-253)
The high ranking for the WCC can be attributed mainly to the overwhelming tournament success of Gonzaga. Gonzaga’s success was highlighted in the top 50 teams section of a previous article.
Gonzaga easily is the top team in this conference, having more than triple the points of the second place team, Loyola Marymount.
Loyola Marymount fell just shy of the 100 point mark. They had three straight tournament appearances from 1988 to 1990, and managed one second round exit and one Elite Eight appearance.
Santa Clara is the only other team in this conference with multiple tournament victories over the past 24 seasons. They won first round games in 1993 and 1996.
Pepperdine and San Diego have one tournament win each in this time frame. None of the bottom three teams have recorded a tournament victory, but all have reached the NCAA tournament at least once.
Top 50 Teams:
20) Oklahoma State Cowboys – Total Points: 506
- Two Final Four appearances, one Elite Eight appearance, three Sweet Sixteen appearances, 11 missed tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 32
The Cowboys have at least two more missed tournaments than any other team inside the top 20, but they make up for it with impressive tournament highlights and only two first round losses.
Oklahoma State made the Final Four in 1995 as a No. 4 seed and again in 2004 as a No. 2 seed. They also made the Elite Eight in 2000 as a No. 3 seed.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, they had zero tournament appearances from 1985-1990 and have not made the NCAA tournament in the past three seasons.
19) Temple Owls – Total Points: 538
- Five Elite Eight appearances, seven missed tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 20
Temple ties with UConn for the second most losses in the round before the Final Four. Only Kentucky has more Elite Eight losses. Temple made the Elite Eight in 1988, 1991, 1993, 1999, and 2001.
The Temple basketball program took a big step back after the 2001 Elite Eight appearance. They missed the NCAA tournament for the next six seasons in a row after having only one other missed tournament in the last 24 seasons in 1989. Temple did qualify for the tournament this past season as a No. 12 seed, but lost their first round game to No. 5-seeded Michigan State.
Temple is the highest rated team in the rankings that is not from one of the traditional power conferences.
18) Purdue Boilermakers – Total Points: 546
- two Elite Eight appearances, three Sweet Sixteen appearances, seven missed tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 29
Purdue has only lost three first round tournament games in their 17 tournament appearances, and has only lost one since 1987. That came in 1994 when they lost as a No. 9 seed to No. 8-seeded Rhode Island.
Purdue also has two Elite Eight appearances. One came in 1994 as a No. 1 seed and the other was in 2000 as a No. 6 seed. They also made the Sweet Sixteen in 1988, 1998, and 1999.
While Purdue did miss five NCAA tournaments from 2001 to 2006, the Boilermakers have participated in the tournament each of the last two seasons. They have won their first round games in each of those two appearances, but failed to win their second round match-ups.
17) Arkansas Razorbacks – Total Points: 563
- One NCAA Championship, one Championship Game appearance, one Final Four appearance, one Elite Eight appearance, two Sweet Sixteen appearances, seven missed tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-14
All of the Razorbacks’ highlighted tournament finishes came between 1990 and 1996. They only failed to reach at least the Sweet Sixteen one time in this period; they lost in the second round in 1992 as a No. 3 seed to No. 6-seeded Memphis.
Arkansas won the NCAA championship in 1994 as a No. 1 seed, lost in the 1995 NCAA Championship game as a No. 2 seed to No. 1-seeded UCLA, and also made the Final Four in 1990 as a No. 4 seed.
Unfortunately for Razorbacks fans, Arkansas has not returned to the elite level in college basketball since their 1996 Sweet Sixteen performance. They have not reached the Sweet Sixteen since, and have missed the tournament five of the last twelve seasons.
They have also lost their first round games four times when they did qualify for the NCAA tournament in the same time period.
16) Oklahoma Sooners – Total Points: 576
- One Championship Game appearance, one Final Four appearance, two Elite Eight appearances, three Sweet Sixteen appearances, five missed tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 12
The Sooners have been the most consistent basketball program we have seen so far in the team rankings. They have made the NCAA tournament 19 of the last 24 seasons, only failing to qualify five times.
Oklahoma reached the final game of the NCAA tournament in 1988 as a No. 1 seed. They lost by four points to No. 6-seed Kansas.
The Sooners only other Final Four appearance came in 2002 as a No. 2 seed. They also reached the Elite Eight in 1985 as a No. 1 seed and in 2003 as a No. 1 seed.
The main negative for Oklahoma is that they do have seven first round losses.