In wake of the SEC’s victory of the fifth annual Big12/SEC Challenge, some assert that the SEC has established itself as the most dominant conference in College Basketball. I’m here to refute these incredulous claims, which I view as a result of millennials’ short-attention spans and tendency to fall prisoner-to-the-moment. I admit that I haven’t watched a whole lot of college basketball this season– I was more interested in football between the months of October and December and was unable to watch American sports in January. But I’ve followed the season closely and have seen all of the best teams in action at least once; plus, being a lifelong Kentucky fan has given me experience in identifying contenders and pretenders. So, I hereby give myself authority to release the definitive Icy Schemes College Basketball Conference Rankings for the week of 1/28/2017. Here we go:
1.ACC- We all hailed the SEC as king in college football this year (myself included) because of Alabama, Georgia and Auburn. We did so because dominance matters. I’m only staying consistent with my football standards in proclaiming the ACC the best conference in college basketball. I know, I know, its bottom teams are weak and both Duke and North Carolina lost yesterday. But Virginia is, in my opinion, the best team in the country, and Duke fought them valiantly to the final minute: these are both top-5 teams. Further, the ACC has ten teams with 15+ wins and, in addition to holding two of basketball’s best, appears to be the deepest conference.
2.Big East- Again, we have to respect dominance. While the Big East is comprised of only ten teams, eight of them have 13+ wins and Villanova has been the top-ranked team in college basketball all season. Xavier is no joke either, with wins against Marquette, Cincinnati, Creighton and Seton Hall, and reasonable losses away from home to conference rivals in Villanova and Providence. I think these Big East teams are tough as hell and better than they’re given credit for. The conference is both deep and competitive, with two top-10 teams and another three that look to enter the top-25 this week.
3.Big Ten- The disparity between the Big East and Big Ten is minimal, but for me, Villanova and Xavier slightly exceed Purdue and Michigan State as potential Final Four teams. I’m also inclined to trust a John Beilein-coached Michigan team and an Ohio State team which is 9-1 in conference play. While the Big 10 lacks the depth of the ACC, it has seven teams with 15+ wins and a potential eight NCAA tournament teams; the questions surrounding the Big 10 are whether Nebraska will continue its upward trend and whether Maryland will rebound from losses in three of its previous four.
4.SEC– I’m placing the SEC ahead of the Big 12 solely because of their Big12/SEC Challenge victory. For what it’s worth, I think the SEC makes a significant jump in the rankings this week. Its apparent strongest team, Auburn, which didn’t participate in the Big12/SEC Challenge, beat LSU by 25 and is a lock to break into the top-15. Florida and Tennessee will move up following blowout victories against Baylor and Iowa State, respectively. Defining wins by Alabama and Kentucky are likely to get them back into the top-25. I think that Arkansas, Mississippi State, and South Carolina—which should be bubble teams a month from now—will at least receive some votes this week. Anyway, my point is that the SEC had its best week in as long as I can remember. Florida and Auburn are legitimate title contenders, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee are trending upward, and the conference has some serious depth behind them. Realistically, the SEC could end up with seven teams in the tournament this year. But are they the best team in basketball? No chance. An ACC/SEC Challenge would be embarrassing.
5. Big 12– It was a really bad week for the Big 12. Two of its top three teams fell victim to the SEC and a top-5 Kansas team lost to Oklahoma on Tuesday. I think that the Big12/SEC Challenge exposed the Big 12 as a lot of average and Kansas. These teams don’t look like March Madness competitors. The toughest of the bunch, West Virginia, faltered in the second-half in such a way I’ve never seen from a Bob Huggins team. Oklahoma appears to be too dependent on freshman Trae Young, whose 17 points weren’t enough to beat a Collin Sexton- led Alabama. And that’s Alabama, a bubble team as of now. TCU, which is likely to be a bubble team next month, lost to an SEC-worst 7-13 Vanderbilt team. While the Big 12 certainly has a top-10 team in Kansas, I question nearly every other team in the conference.
-Admin Tam (@tomhall2323)