I realize many people probably didn't want to wade through my earlier rankings, due to the length of the article.
For a longer version of these rankings, with much greater detail and explanation, please see my in-depth article here.
For those of who you would prefer "a number and a nugget," I've produced this shorter version. As always, I strongly encourage you (for better or for worse) to comment on the rankings.
I'd like very much to see your rankings as well, and if there is enough interest, I may even compile them much like Jameson does with the teams' rankings each week.
Here they are, short and sweet:
1. Atlantic Coast
UNC, Duke and Wake Forest may very well be the top three teams in the nation. The "middle of the pack" all have similar resumes: difficult schedule, quality wins against ranked and unranked opponents, and a lack of bad losses. Virginia is beyond awful, but even Virginia Tech is improving. VMI has the best win in the state of Virginia right now (over Kentucky).
1a. Big Ten
They are close enough to the ACC that I had to designate them "1a." instead of "2." This weekend alone, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Purdue all notched impressive victories over Louisville, Texas, and Davidson, respectively.
The conference also suffered some disappointing losses, with Iowa dropping a game to Drake and Northwestern losing to Stanford. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Northwestern have all cooled off after hot starts.
Ultimately, the bottom of the Big Ten is slightly better than the ACC, the top is slightly worse, and the ACC gets the edge by winning the middle—by a very small margin, just like the result of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
3. Big East
The losses at the top are mounting: Louisville to Western Kentucky and Minnesota, Syracuse to Cleveland State, Marquette to a Tennessee team that lost to Temple and could only beat Belmont by two, Georgetown also to Tennessee, and Notre Dame to UNC and Ohio State, though the Buckeyes are better than advertised.
Connecticut and Pittsburgh remain undefeated, but the Huskies barely beat Buffalo and would have lost to Gonzaga had the Bulldogs not mishandled nearly every possession in the final minute of regulation. The Panthers faced their first competition of any significance last night and were losing deep into the second half against Florida State.
With a poorly finished basement (Providence, DePaul, Rutgers, South Florida) and too many close calls or stunning losses at the top, the Big East has lost the right to be ranked above the ACC or Big Ten...for now.
4. Big XII
Oklahoma looks great with an easy schedule, Texas looks good with a very difficult schedule, and Baylor, Missouri, and Texas A&M are outperforming expectations. We'll know more about this conference when conference play starts. It's hard to tell if the middle to bottom teams are dangerous upstarts or fodder for the top five.
After stunning Gonzaga, Arizona took it on the chin in losing to UNLV. Arizona State managed a one-point win over BYU last night, but most of the schools in the Pac-10 have a similar story, for the most part: poor strength-of-schedule, no marquee wins (not even UCLA, who has lost to both ranked teams it has played), and some bad losses.
Stanford is undefeated at 7-0, but its best win is over Northwestern, a significant improvement over the patsies that they had played prior to the Wildcats.
6. Atlantic Ten
Outside of Xavier and Dayton, this league is very hit-or-miss. The rest of the conference has notched significant wins (for example, UMass over Kansas, Temple over Penn State and Tennessee) and close losses to highly ranked teams (for example, Rhode Island to Duke, and Temple and Charlotte to Clemson).
But they've also piled on some miserable losses, making the profile of No. 3 to No. 14 teams in the A-10 about the same. That profile isn't good enough for the Big Dance, unfortunately.
7. Conference USA
UAB's players should have studied harder. They might have been able to contend with a weakened Memphis team if they had more than six scholarship players left. UTEP (who handed St. Mary's its only loss of the season), East Carolina, Houston, and even Tulsa (who has beaten Texas A&M) all have the potential to play with the big boys when they are on. The rest of the league is pretty bad.
Tennessee is good, but not Top-10 good. Florida and Kentucky are okay, but not Top-25 okay. South Carolina, LSU, and Arkansas are average, but not NCAA Tournament-worthy.
If I am on the Selection Committee and I look at this conference right now, I have a real hard time justifying a spot any team beyond Tennessee or the conference tournament winner. The SEC can thank a pathetically weak out-of-conference schedule (with few exceptions), a series of stunning upsets, and a lack of marquee wins. Oh, yeah, and some really bad (though young) basketball teams.
9. Mountain West
There are no real standout teams, but a heck of a lot of dangerous ones, including BYU, UNLV, and Utah. This conference may improve its position throughout the year, but a golden opportunity was missed when BYU lost by just one to Arizona State on a neutral court last Saturday.
10. West Coast
They should change the name to the Mountain Cliff. The drop-off after Gonzaga and St. Mary's is as steep as it gets. Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount are two of the worst teams in the nation. San Diego is a huge disappointment. I do think two teams will be dancing come March.
Alright, I know it might be ugly, but bring it on. I've shortened this version of the article, which means you'll likely sharpen your attacks. Have fun!
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