In recent memory, college basketball has been ruled by either the Big East or the ACC. The 2013-14 season has reversed that trend and showed that the balance of power in D1 basketball is as spread out as it has ever been. As of now, none of the projected No. 1 seeds come from either of the traditional power conferences. Additionally, there are only three teams in the top-10 BPI ranking from the ACC/Big East: Villanova, Virginia and Duke.
In all fairness to the Big East, they did lose three of their biggest programs this off-season with Pittsburgh and Syracuse going to the ACC and UConn also heading for the hills. Even though the already deep ACC got even deeper with the addition of their new toys, the conference simply has not been as dominant as some had thought they should.
Syracuse has fallen off the face of the Earth. Pitt and Duke have both underachieved. If it weren’t for UVA and UNC winning a combined 25 games in a row, the ACC would be in shambles right now. Not to say that the Big Ten and the Big 12 do not belong in the same conversation as the ACC and Big East, because they do, this season more than ever. Why do they belong in the conversation now? They have a lot of depth.
In the Big 12, only two teams are below .500 and four teams are safely in the Big Dance with the next three still alive for an at-large bid. The Big East only has two teams below .500 as well, but only has two teams ranked in the top-25. The Big Ten is in a similar boat as the Big 12. Only Northwestern has a losing record during the regular season and almost half the conference is still alive for a bid to the dance.
The Big 12 has also been one of the most unpredictable conferences this season. Just when everyone thought Kansas had it all together and were guaranteed a No. 1 seed in the Tournament, they dropped their regular season finale on the road in West Virginia (who is probably one of the better teams not on the bubble). Bottom-line: the Big 12 was DEEP in 2014.
Even the Pac-12 has stepped its game up this year. On Saturday, Oregon nearly punched their ticket to the Big Dance with a huge win against title contender Arizona. Cal, UCLA, Colorado and Arizona State all had impressive enough regular seasons to make a strong case to represent their conference in the dance.
The deepest of these dark-horse conferences is the American Athletic Conference. Not only does the AAC have defending national champion Louisville, but four of the five teams in the conference with winning records are ranked in the top-25.The top five teams in the AAC are comfortably in the Tournament as of now and has a Cincinnati team who, in my opinion, are primed for a deep run in the post-season.
Also, in case you didn’t know, Wichita State is pretty good. The knock on the Shockers is that they are only undefeated since they play in a weak conference. Well tell that to Florida State. But I digress. So what is the point of all of this rambling? For the first time in a while, we are not seeing one conference dominate the college basketball landscape. The Big Ten and Big 12 are becoming more and more dangerous each year.
College basketball is as great today as it has ever been. The beauty of the sport is the parody that it brings every year and we witness that first-hand in March. No road team is safe, despite whatever record or ranking they may hold. Any team can beat anybody on a given day.
Enjoy your March, everyone.