The Real Prestige Rankings: Part IX
Table of Contents
This is the ninth 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 Nos. 4-6, and all of the teams rated Nos. 6-10.
Conferences (Conference Rank, Team, Points, Overall Rank, ESPN’s Overall Rank)
6) Pac-10 – Average Point Total: 280.20
1) Arizona – 749 (5, 5)
2) UCLA – 731 (6, 7)
3) Stanford – 466 (25, 25)
4) California – 210 (T-54, T-109)
5) Washington – 158 (64, T-124)
6) Southern California – 152 (65, T-132)
7) Oregon – 124 (T-76, T-115)
8) Arizona State – 118 (82, T-181)
9) Washington State – 86 (T-96, T-237)
10) Oregon State – 8 (T-163, T-241)
The Pac-10 ranks last out of all the major conferences because of the lack of depth. Arizona and UCLA are both elite teams ranking inside the top 10, but Stanford is the only other team ranked in the top 50 teams at No. 25.
All of the other teams in the Pac-10 have had sporadic tournament success, except for Oregon State, but none of them have had consistent enough success to place them high in the Prestige Rankings.
The Pac-10 does have two national championships to its credit in the past 24 seasons. Not surprisingly, they were won by Arizona and UCLA. UCLA won the NCAA tournament in 1995 as a No. 1 seed, and Arizona won the championship as a No. 4 seed in 1997.
The only Final Four by teams other than Arizona or UCLA was in 1998, when Stanford reached the semifinal round as a No. 3 seed.
Oregon State and Washington State are the weakest teams in the conference. Washington State has almost all of their points in the past two seasons, with a second round exit in 2007 and a Sweet 16 last season. Oregon State had four tournament appearances from 1985-1990 but lost in all of their first round games.
5) Big 12 – Average Point Total: 321.67
1) Kansas – 1,076 (3, 2)
2) Texas – 632 (12, 18)
3) Oklahoma – 576 (16, 12)
4) Oklahoma State – 506 (20, 32)
5) Missouri – 316 (42, T-37)
6) Iowa State – 304 (45, T-57)
7) Texas Tech – 144 (T-69, T-90)
8) Kansas State – 134 (72, T-124)
9) Texas A&M – 120 (T-80, 174)
10) Colorado – 36 (T-149, 219)
11) Nebraska – 12 (T-157, T-141)
12) Baylor – 4 (T-191, T-266)
The success of Kansas is the big factor that puts the Big 12 ahead of the Pac-10 in the rankings. The mediocrity of the rest of the conference throughout the years is what keeps the Big 12 below the other major conferences.
Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Iowa State are all also ranked inside the top 50, but their point totals are not enough to compete with the top teams in the other conferences.
The Big 12 Conference, like the Pac-10, also has two national championships. Both were won by Kansas. The Jayhawks won the 1988 NCAA tournament as a No. 6 seed and won last year’s tournament as a No. 1 seed.
In addition to Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas all have Final Four appearances in the last 24 seasons (Oklahoma State has two).
The bottom three teams in this conference are what really weigh down its average.
Colorado only has two tournament appearances, even though they did win one of their first round games. Nebraska, along with Louisiana-Monroe and North Carolina A&T, holds the unenviable title of most tournament appearances (six) without a tournament victory in the time period. Baylor also is without a tournament victory and has only two tournament appearances.
4) SEC – Average Score: 338.42
1) Kentucky – 978 (4, 4)
2) Arkansas – 563 (17, T-14)
3) Florida – 500 (22, 21)
4) Alabama – 484 (23, T-35)
5) LSU – 314 (43, T-40)
6) Auburn – 310 (44, T-90)
7) Mississippi State – 252 (49, T-86)
8) Tennessee – 224 (53, 99)
9) Vanderbilt – 208 (57, T-96)
10) Georgia – 130 (T-73, T-105)
11) Mississippi – 90 (92, T-192)
12) South Carolina – 8 (T-163, T-185)
While the SEC has slightly more balance than the Big 12, the lack of any top 15 teams outside of Kentucky puts the SEC in the second half of the rankings for the major conferences. The SEC has eight top 50 teams, while the Big 12 only had six. Tennessee and Vanderbilt also both fall just outside of the top 50, at No. 53 and No. 57 respectively.
Another advantage for the SEC is that it stakes claim to five national championships since 1985. Arkansas has won one (1994), Kentucky has won two (1996 and 1998), and Florida has won two (2006 and 2007). LSU and Mississippi State are the only two other teams in this conference with at least one Final Four appearance (LSU actually has two).
Despite a slightly down year last season, the SEC has become a much stronger conference in the past couple of years. Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt have all established, or at least begun to establish, themselves as top basketball programs.
South Carolina is the only team in the SEC without a tournament victory. They have certainly had their chances though, qualifying for the NCAA tournament four times in the past 24 years. The Gamecocks fell victim to two major upsets in consecutive seasons. They lost as a No. 2 seed in 1997 to No. 15-seeded Coppin State and as a No. 3 seed the next year to No. 14-seeded Richmond.
Top 50 Teams
10) Michigan State Spartans – Total Points: 655
- One NCAA Championship, three Final Four Appearances, one Elite Eight Appearance, four Sweet 16 Appearances, six Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-10
Very few teams have the talent, coaching, and luck to make it to the Final Four round three years in a row. Michigan State was able to accomplish this feat in 1999, 2000, and 2001.
Led by point guard sensation Mateen Cleaves in the first two seasons and coach Tom Izzo in all three, the Spartans reached the Final Four as a No. 1 seed in 1999, won the championship as a No. 1 seed in 2000, and again reached the Final Four as a No. 1 seed in 2001.
Michigan State also has one other Final Four appearance. They reached the semi-final round as a No. 5 seed in 2005 before being beaten handily by No. 1 seed and eventual champion UNC.
The Spartans do have six missed tournaments and five first round losses, enough to keep them from moving much higher in the rankings.
9) Georgetown Hoyas – Total Points: 690
- One Championship Game Appearance, one Final Four Appearance, three Elite Eight Appearances, three Sweet 16 Appearances, eight Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-10
From 1997 to 2005, Georgetown only qualified for two NCAA tournaments. One resulted in a first round loss in 1997 and the other a Sweet 16 loss in 2001. Amazingly, Georgetown’s success in the other years of this time period has more than made up for that drought. The Hoyas only missed one other NCAA tournament outside of this time period (1993).
The main tournament highlight (or disappointment, depending how you look at it) for Georgetown was in 1985, when they made the championship game as a No. 1 seed. There they were heavily favored against tournament Cinderella and No. 8-seeded Villanova. However, Villanova won the battle of Big East teams and upset the Hoyas in one of the most epic NCAA tournament championship games of all time.
Georgetown also made the Final Four in 2007 as a No. 2 seed, getting on the better side of an upset in the Elite Eight by beating No. 1-seeded UNC.
One of the major advantages for Georgetown is that they only have one first round loss, which I mentioned before as being in 1993. Again, since most of the teams in the NCAA tournament are eliminated in the first round, the biggest jump in points comes from winning a first round game.
Georgetown is the only team inside the top 10 in the rankings without an NCAA Championship.
8) Syracuse Orangemen – Total Points: 713
- One NCAA Championship, two Championship Game Appearances, one Elite Eight Appearance, five Sweet 16 Appearances, five Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 9
Syracuse has fallen from the elite ranks in the past four years but still has done enough in the past 24 seasons to be one of the most prestigious programs overall.
The Orangemen were victims of an upset in the NCAA tournament in 2005 as a No. 4 seed to No. 13-seeded Vermont, and again in 2006 as a No. 5 seed to No. 12-seeded Texas A&M. They have not made the tournament in either of the two seasons since.
Syracuse’s most glorious moment came in 2003 when Carmelo Anthony led them to a National Championship as a No. 3 seed. They defeated No. 2-seeded UConn in the championship by three points.
Syracuse also fell just short of championships in 1987 and 1996. In 1987 they lost in the final game as a No. 2 seed by one point to No. 1-seeded Indiana. In 1996 they lost as a No. 4 seed to No. 1 seed Kentucky.
Aside from their recent struggles, Syracuse has been one of the most consistent teams in the country. Their three missed tournaments from 1985 to 2006 were all spread out (1993, 1997, and 2002).
7) Connecticut Huskies – Total Points: 724
- Two NCAA Championships, five Elite Eight Appearances, four Sweet 16 Appearances, nine Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 6
The Huskies have at least four more missed tournaments than any team that is ranked higher than them in the rankings. UConn did not qualify for a single NCAA tournament from 1985 to 1989. However, they have more than had their fair share of tournament success.
Connecticut only has one first round loss in the time period, and that came this past year as a No. 4 seed to No. 13-seeded San Diego. UConn’s starting point guard, A.J. Price, was injured for most of the game.
Connecticut has won two national championships in the time period. The first was in 1999 as a No. 1 seed. They defeated No. 1-seeded Duke in the finals by three points. The other was in 2004 as a No. 2 seed, where they defeated No. 3-seeded Georgia Tech in the finals.
6) UCLA Bruins – Total Points: 731
- One NCAA Championship, one Championship Game Appearance, two Final Four Appearances, two Elite Eight Appearances, five Sweet 16 Appearances, five Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 7
No team is currently hotter than the UCLA Bruins, who have made it to at least the Final Four in each of the past three seasons. In 2006 they made the championship game as a No. 2 seed, where they lost to No. 3-seeded Florida. In 2007 they lost their semifinal matchup as a No. 2 seed, again to Florida (this time a No. 1 seed). Finally, in 2008 they also lost their semifinal game, to No. 1-seeded Memphis, as a No. 1 seed.
Even though they missed good chances to win a championship in each of the last three seasons, the Bruins did manage to win a championship in this time period. It came in 1995, and it was the only other time besides the last three seasons that they reached the Final Four. UCLA was able to defeat No. 2-seeded Arkansas as a No. 1 seed in the championship game in 1995.
UCLA struggled the most during this time period in the late 1980s. From 1985 to 1989, the Bruins had three missed tournaments and never reached the Sweet 16.
The main reason UCLA missed out on a top five spot in the rankings is their five missed tournaments. No team ranked in the top five has more than three missed tournaments.
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