Table of Contents:
This is the eighth 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. 7-9, and all of the teams rated No. 11-15.
Conferences: (Conference Rank, Team, Points, Overall Rank, ESPN’s Overall Rank)
9) Conference USA – Average Point Total: 106.83
1) Memphis – 460 (26, T-14)
2) Tulsa – 302 (46, 39)
T-3) UTEP – 162 (T-62, T-65)
T-3) UAB – 162 (T-62, T-76)
5) Tulane – 102 (84, T-157)
6) Southern Methodist – 70 (T-112, T-165)
7) Central Florida – 8 (T-163, T-196)
8) Houston – 6 (T-175, T-161)
T-9) Southern Mississippi – 4 (T-191, T-177)
T-9) Marshall – 4 (T-191, T-168)
11) East Carolina – 2 (T-226, T-271)
12) Rice – 0 (T-273, T-247)
With the recent loss of teams such as Louisville, Cincinnati, and Depaul, Conference USA has dropped back a level from the rest of the major conferences. However, the strength of the top teams still keeps Conference USA a big step ahead of the mid-major conferences.
Conference USAteams have an average point total of 106.83, while WCC teams (the conference ranked just below Conference USA) have an average point total of only 72.50.
Memphis is currently the dominant team in this conference and easily earns the top spot in the rankings, with 100 more points than second-place Tulsa.
The top five teams in this conference all have over 100 points and are all ranked in the top 84 overall, but there is a big drop-off after that. Southern Methodist, ranked No. 6 in the conference, is the only other team with an NCAA tournament victory in the past 24 seasons.
8) Mountain West – Average Point Total: 148.33
1) UNLV – 453 (27, 8)
2) Utah – 448 (28, 24)
3) New Mexico – 144 (T-69, T-70)
4) BYU – 120 (T-80, 46)
5) Wyoming – 86 (T-96, T-111)
6) Colorado State – 38 (T-142, T-148)
7) TCU – 36 (T-149, T-138)
8) San Diego State – 6 (T-175, T-208)
9) Air Force – 4 (T-191, T-260)
The Mountain West Conference is ahead of Conference USA in the standings because they have two powerhouse teams, while Conference USA only has one. UNLV and Utah are both in the top 30 overall teams.
UNLV barely edged out Utah for the top spot in the Mountain West. Not only are they one after another in the conference standings, but they are also one after another in the overall standings (at 27 and 28 respectively).
Every team in the Mountain West has at least two tournament appearances in the past 24 seasons, and all except San Diego State and Air Force have won at least one game.
The Mountain West is also the first conference we have seen to have a National Championship since 1985. UNLV won the National Championship in 1990.
New Mexico has also had good tournament success, earning four straight first round victories from 1996 to 1999. BYU has twelve tournament appearances, but has lost in the first round nine times and in the second round the other three times.
Wyoming is the team that has made the most of their tournament appearances. They have only made the NCAA tournament three times in the past 24 seasons but have a Sweet Sixteen appearance (1987) and a second round exit (2002).
7) Atlantic 10 – Average Score: 148.71
1) Temple – 538 (19, 20)
2) Xavier – 418 (32, 17)
3) Massachusetts – 242 (51, 42)
4) St. Joseph’s – 180 (T-59, T-57)
5) Charlotte – 148 (66, 73)
6) Rhode Island – 146 (T-67, T-134)
7) George Washington – 128 (75, 123)
8) Richmond – 124 (T-76, T-65)
9) Saint Louis – 72 (T-102, T-148)
10) Dayton – 42 (T-130, T-168)
11) La Salle – 40 (T-132, T-132)
T-12) St. Bonaventure – 2 (T-226, T-278)
T-12) Fordham – 2 (T-226, T-214)
14) Duquesne – 0 (T-273, 293)
The Atlantic 10 just barely squeaked ahead of the Mountain West in the rankings, posting an average team point total of less than .5 points higher than the Mountain West. The Atlantic 10 has more teams that have had very good tournament success. The top 8 teams all have well over 100 points.
Temple took first place, Xavier took second, and UMass took third in this conference, all teams well above the teams below them in point total.
Surprisingly, the Atlantic 10 has only one Final Four appearance in the past 24 seasons. That came in 1996 when UMass, led by Marcus Camby and coached by John Calipari, made the semi-final round as a No. 1 seed. They lost to fellow No. 1 seed and eventual champion Kentucky.
The last three teams in the conference rankings, St. Bonaventure, Fordham, and Duquesne, do significantly weight this conference down. Every other team besides these three has at least one tournament victory and at least four tournament appearances since 1985.
Top 50 Teams:
15) Indiana Hoosiers – Total Points: 587
- 1 NCAA Championship, 1 Championship Game Appearance, 1 Final Four Appearances, 1 Elite Eight Appearance, 3 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 3 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 13
Indiana grabs the final spot in the top 15 with their incredible consistency. They have only three missed tournaments, meaning they have played in the NCAA tournament 21 of the last 24 seasons. This is the least missed tournaments of any team outside the top five in the rankings.
Indiana also has some very good tournament success to speak of. They won the National Championship as a No. 1 seed in 1987. Led by the coaching of Bobby Knight, they won the championship game over No. 2-seeded Syracuse by one point.
The Hoosiers also reached the finals of the NCAA tournament in 2002 as a No. 5 seed. They lost to No. 1-seeded Maryland. Indiana’s only other Final Four in the past 24 seasons came in 1992 as a No. 2 seed, where they lost to No. 1-seeded and eventual champion Duke.
The main negative for Indiana is that they have nine first round losses. Also, their 2002 finals appearance was the only time they have advanced past the second round of the tournament since 1994.
14) Maryland Terrapins – Total Points: 601
- 1 NCAA Championship, 1 Final Four Appearance, 6 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 9 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 28
Although they have a relatively high number of missed tournaments, Maryland is high in the rankings because of their good finishes, including only losing in the first round twice.
Their two first round losses came in back-to-back seasons, in 1996 and 1997. They lost to No. 10-seeded Santa Clara in 1996 as a No. 7 seed and to No. 12-seeded College of Charleston as a No. 5 seed in 1997.
The highlight for Maryland was winning the NCAA Championship in 2002. They won the tournament without playing a game closer than eight points as a No. 1 seed and one of the tournament favorites.
Maryland also reached the Final Four the previous season in 2001 as a No. 3 seed. They lost their semi-final match-up to conference foe and eventual champion Duke, who was a No. 1 seed that year.
The six Sweet Sixteen appearances for the Terrapins is very high. Only the No. 1 ranked team has as many losses in the third round of the NCAA tournament in the last 24 seasons.
13) IllinoisFighting Illini – Total Points: 616
- 1 Championship Game Appearance, 1 Final Four Appearance, 1 Elite Eight Appearances, 3 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 5 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 23
Despite not having won a National Championship, Illinois still is one of the most prestigious college basketball programs in the past 24 seasons. Illinois only has missed out on the tournament five times and has several top finishes.
The best finish for the Fighting Illini was in 2005. They reached the finals of the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed with the help of a miraculous comeback to defeated No. 2-seeded Arizona in the Elite Eight. They lost in a close game to another No. 1 seed and extremely talented team, North Carolina.
Illinois also qualified for the Final Four in 1989 as a No. 1 seed. There they lost a two point game to No. 2-seeded and eventual champion Michigan.
12) Texas Longhorns – Total Points: 632
- 1 Final Four Appearance, 3 Elite Eight Appearances, 3 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 6 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 18
Texas also does not have an NCAA championship in the past 24 seasons, or even a championship game appearance. But the Longhorns do have other tournament success to speak of.
After not making the NCAA tournament in 1985, 1986, or 1987, Texas has made the tournament in 18 of the last 21 seasons. Texas has had a number of extremely good teams in recent years, placing fourth overall in the rankings for this decade only.
The best finish for Texas came in 2003 as a No. 1 seed when they reached the Final Four, before losing to Carmelo Anthony and No. 3-seeded Syracuse. Texas also reached the Elite Eight in 1990, 2006, and 2008.
11) Louisville Cardinals – Total Points: 637
- 1 NCAA Championship, 1 Final Four Appearance, 2 Elite Eight Appearances, 5 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 7 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-14
Louisville has been an extremely consistent basketball program over the last 24 seasons and also has achieved great tournament success.
The Cardinals won the NCAA Championship in 1986 as a No. 2 seed. They defeated No. 1-seeded Duke in the finals by three points.
Louisville also made the Final Four in 2005 as a No. 4 seed, where they were beaten easily by No. 1-seeded Illinois.
Even though the Louisville basketball program has experienced a strong resurgence lately, most of the Cardinals tournament success came in the time period from 1986 to 1997.
They only missed the tournament two years in this stretch, and only lost in the first round one year, and only lost in the second round two years. That leaves seven of the twelve years that they at least made it to the Sweet Sixteen.