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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Moments ‘til Madness: The battle of conferences

Ranking the best conferences in college hoops.

"Moments 'Til Madness " Column Graphic
Graphic by Gretta Goorno

With the season just weeks away, I created my rankings of the Power-6 conferences for the 2023–24 college basketball season:

6. Pac-12

As most would expect, the Pac-12 found itself at the bottom of my rankings. Although none of the conference realignments will affect the current season, the conference was already struggling mightily, finishing with just two teams in the top 40 of the 2023 KenPom rankings. Still, the Pac-12 has some intriguing teams, like the University of Arizona — who seem to be permanent residents in the AP rankings, as long as Tommy Lloyd is still there. The University of Southern California brought in the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Isaiah Collier, as well as Bronny James, as most basketball fans know. But past those two players, the conference’s success gets a little questionable.

5. Atlantic Coast Conference

Recently, the ACC hasn’t been the dominant conference we saw in the 2010’s. Per usual, Duke University is always near the top of preseason rankings with a great recruiting class. After a surprising Final Four run, the University of Miami is also projected to be a high seed for the upcoming season. While the Tar Heels usually appear higher in the pecking order, the University of North Carolina could be in for a bounceback season. The only thing separating the ACC from Pac-12 at the bottom is their collection of a few elite teams.

4. Big Ten

Every year, the Big Ten starts with high expectations, but it rolls over when it comes time to play postseason hoops. Even with the staggering amount of tournament teams this conference produces, I can’t put them any higher until they have success in March. The last time this conference won a championship was in 2000, when Michigan State University snagged the title. That’s not to say that there aren’t any good teams, though; Purdue University will probably be a top-five team for the majority of the season (whether they deserve to be or not) and Michigan State is one of my favorite teams for the 202324 season. The one thing this conference always has is depth, with the University of Maryland, the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin all being considered fringe top 25 teams.

3. Southeastern Conference

In past years, the SEC was essentially the University of Kentucky’s conference. Now, the other SEC teams are starting to surpass the long-standing top dog of the conference. Year in and year out, the University of Arkansas outperforms expectations in the tournament. The University of Tennessee somehow ends up with a highly elite defense every single year. And now, coach Buzz Williams is turning Texas A&M into a legitimate tournament team. After Texas A&M, there are still a good amount of teams that could snatch up a tournament bid.

2. Big 12

Any follower of college basketball would know the dominance the Big 12 has had over the sport. With two championships in the last three years, it’s hard for me to argue that they shouldn’t be at the top of this list. The University of Kansas is the undisputed No. 1 preseason team and the University of Texas, Baylor University and Houston University all have a case for being some of the best squads in basketball. Following these teams, there isn’t as much to be excited about in the Big 12, unlike preceding seasons.

1. Big East

I can’t think of a better reason for the Big East being the best conference other than my overwhelming confidence in the coaching and talent for this season. Marquette University and Creighton University should be in every writer’s top five. UConn just won the 2023 national championship. Villanova University has one of the deepest rosters in the sport and St. John’s University has one of the best coaches around. Other than these five teams, — who are all likely starting the year in the AP top 25 — the less highly-projected teams seem to have only made quality moves, whether in coaching personnel or roster construction. The Big East is back.