Jan. 21, 1:30 p.m.: The debate is heating up. The Big East or the ACC? Which is the strongest conference this season? The Sporting News argued this morning that the ACC is the class of the country. In the fall, everyone proclaimed the Big East as the strongest conference in recent memory and the ACC as a league with one legit power. We won’t have a firm grasp on which league is stronger until the NCAA tournament bids are handed out in mid-March and elite eight and Final Four berths are earned a few weeks later. NCAA tournament selection committee members like to talk about passing the “eye test,” which speaks to which team looks most dangerous. Using that criteria, I’ll stick with the Big East. But let’s take a closer look at some of the quantitative comparisons:
Ten of the ACC’s 12 teams are ranked in the RPI’s top 100. Eleven of the Big East’s 16 teams are ranked in the RPI’s top 100. The Big East has better teams, but it also has more teams. It would be easier to make a comparison if someone could trim the fat off the bottom of the Big East.
The ACC has five teams ranked in the RPI’s top 25. The Big East has seven teams in the RPI’s top 25. In short, the Big East has more teams (9 to 6) well positioned for NCAA tournament at-large bids.
The ACC has a better non-conference winning percentage than the Big East. But that has a lot to do with the bottom feeders in the Big East having to play non-conference games, and losing some of those games.
We will return to this discussion through the course of the season. But, at this point, it looks like the conferences could account for all four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. I will stick with the Big East, but the ACC has given the Big East a worthy and somewhat unexpected competitor this season.
January 21, 2009; 1:28 PM ET
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