College Basketball 2010-11: Which Conference Is Off To the Best Start?
Early season college basketball is a mixed-bag of assorted cupcakes, tournaments and pre-season challenges.
Depending on how schedules have been created, the first games of the year are either (A) a sign of things to come or (B) have little bearing on what will happen as the rest of season unfolds.
The truth is: loses to quality teams in November don't have a negative impact on future RPI ratings or tournament selection chances. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Lute Olson, former coach of Arizona, scheduled mostly tough games before Pac-10 play began. Not only did it give him a chance to see what his teams were made of, but it also created some "strength of schedule" points when it came down to who was in and who was out of the NCAA Tournament.
Without evaluating all of the possible factors, here is a summary of how the Top 5 conferences did in their opening games in November:
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Combined Record: 36-18 (.667)
Washington State (4-0) opened with four easy wins against four easy teams (Southern, Idaho, Portland and Fresno State).
Arizona (5-1) came out on top in their first five home games before losing to Kansas in a tough battle in Las Vegas.
Washington (3-2) won three games before dropping two contests to top teams (#9 Kentucky and #2 Michigan State).
USC is struggling, already losing three games (Rider, Bradley, and Nebraska) to teams that they should have probably beaten.
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Combined Record: 51-21 (.708)
Duke (6-0) cruised to three easy home victories before heading on the road to defeat three quality opponents (Marquette, #4 Kansas State, and Oregon).
Clemson's (5-1) only blemish is a one-point mistake to Old Dominion in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
Florida State (5-1) took down five overmatched opponents before losing a close one to cross-state rival Florida.
Virginia's (3-3) three lopsided loses have come against Wichita State, Washington, and Stanford.
Wake Forest (also 3-3), on the other hand, has lost to Stetson, Virginia Commonwealth, and Winthrop.
3. Big 12
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Combined Record: 54-15 (.783)
Kansas (6-0), Iowa State (6-0), Missouri (5-0) and Baylor (4-0) have all opened without a loss, with the Jayhawks playing the only quality opponent (Arizona) so far.
Colorado (2-3) is working to get on track, with loses against Georgia, San Francisco, and Harvard.
Oklahoma (3-3) opened with three easy wins and then three difficult defeats (Kentucky, Virginia and Chaminade) at the Maui Invitational.
2. Big East
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Combined Record: 73-18 (.802)
Seven Big East Teams - Notre Dame (7-0), Pitt (7-0), Georgetown (6-0), Syracuse (6-0), Cincinnati (5-0), Connecticut (5-0) and Louisville (4-0) - have started the season without an early loss.
DePaul (1-4) is trying to find their way, having lost four consecutive games to Western Carolina, Oklahoma State, Cal State Northridge and Stanford.
While Seton Hall's record (2-3) is not great, they have lost to three quality opponents (Temple, Xavier and Clemson) in tough battles.
1. Big Ten
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Combined Record: 52-11 (.825)
Indiana (6-0), Minnesota (6-0), Ohio State (5-0), and Northwestern (4-0) have opened the season without a loss.
Iowa (3-3) has struggled to find consistency early on, with a home loss to South Dakota State, and then losses to Xavier, and Long Beach State in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
After three home wins, Michigan (3-2) lost to Syracuse and UTEP in Atlantic City.