Best Conference in College Basketball

By on March 2, 2012

Earlier in the year I made my argument for the best conference in college football, the SEC. But with the arrival of March, we have to wonder, “Who is the best in college basketball?”

Is it the Big-East? A powerhouse conference that usually has the most tournament teams (they have 16 basketball schools this year) and has national champions every few years?

What about the ACC? Duke and North Carolina, enough said.

Is it the Big 12? Kansas is always good, but Kansas State has been much improved the last few years, plus Baylor and Missouri have been top-10 teams.

I say it’s none of these conferences. I may win homer of the year, but I’ll go with the conference of my Alma Mater, the B1G (Big-10) conference. The B1G has the highest conference RPI, two teams that have been untouchable at points and depth.

Starting with conference leader #5 Michigan State, (24-6, 13-4) who is the conference’s Rocky. Starting the year 0-2 with losses to Duke and North Carolina on an aircraft carrier, the Spartans bounced back strong winning its next 15 games before dropping to Northwestern in a Gus Johnson-called game. The Spartans didn’t play great out of conference (only ranked win was #22 Gonzaga) but has been a steady defensive team that works the boards and takes care of the ball. MSUs problem: the PG, Keith Appling, was a forward last year and the team lacks athleticism, although Draymond Green has been a beast down the stretch.

#11 Ohio State (24-6, 12-5) had an interesting season. The Buckeyes have wins as big as 13 over #8 Florida and 22 over #4 Duke, but losses as bad as unranked Illinois. Ohio State lost three of its last six including a narrow 75-73 win at Northwestern. This team is too inconsistent. Last year’s freshman of the Year Jared Sullinger has had his worst games of the year leading into March and the Buckeyes have been awful playing in a half court set. Plus, the lone senior, William Buford, has been M.I.A. for most of the season.

The School up North, #22 Michigan (22-8, 12-5), surprised a lot of people when they upset #8 Memphis in November and hung with #6 Duke to a close 82-75 loss. Led by sophomore, Tim Hardaway Jr., and freshman, Trey Burke (from Columbus, Ohio) the Wolverines have made noise in the B1G. Another inconsistent team, Michigan has wins as solid as that Memphis win and home wins over Ohio State and Michigan State, but losses as bad as Arkansas, Iowa and Purdue. Slow Burke down and put a hand in Hardaway’s face and this team has no answer.

The #15 Wisconsin Badgers (22-8, 11-6) have been consistent under Bo Ryan—slow the game down, play solid defense and don’t make mistakes. This team is incredible in the half court and nails three pointers. Its only bad loss was against Iowa and the best win was at Ohio State. A boring team, its leading scorer is Jordan Taylor averaging just 14.6 points per game. This team doesn’t have the offensive firepower capable of making a deep tournament run.

The best of the rest includes #20 Indiana (23-7, 10-7) who beat #1 Kentucky, #2 Ohio State and #5 Michigan State. Purdue (20-10, 10-7) has senior Robbie Hummel finally healthy and won at Michigan Feb. 25. Each of those teams are shoo-ins. Teams on the bubble include Iowa (16-14, 8-9), Northwestern (17-12, 7-10) and Illinois (17-13, 6-11). Minnesota (17-13, 5-12), Nebraska (12-16, 4-13) and Penn State (12-18, 4-13) have virtually no chance, although Minnesota beat #8 Indiana Nebraska beat #13 Indiana in the Hoosiers’ next game and Penn State beat #25 Illinois, to show you some depth.

The B1G could possibly have as many as eight or nine teams in the field, but I don’t see the national champion coming out of this conference. I think the B1G is the toughest conference to play in game-to-game, but I don’t think there is any one team in the conference that should be a favorite to win it all. Who knows, maybe each of the teams step it up in March.

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