The Power Five of college hoops
ACC, boasting 176 NCAA tournament wins since 2000, tops conference ranking
Last week, the NCAA Division I board of directors voted to grant increased autonomy to the Power Five conferences. This reform was tailored expressly to address the needs and concerns of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.
Those five conferences (plus Notre Dame) form a natural top tier in football. But when it comes to picking a "power five" in the college hoops world, the decision isn't nearly as clear cut.
To be honest, I'm not sure there are five conferences in college basketball that warrant the "power" description. Still, I think we can arrange a convincing hierarchy and select five conferences that are more impressive than all others.
Below, I've discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each major conference and picked the five conferences I think are college basketball's best.
Conferences were measured according to two criteria: first, and most heavily, NCAA tournament success. And second, top-to-bottom strength.
In my opinion, the entire composition of a conference isn't as important as how its best teams perform on the biggest stage. If it were, Tulane's presence in the American would harm the conference's reputation as much as UConn's helps it. That kind of calculation doesn't make much sense.
Certainly top-to-bottom strength is an important consideration, but a conference's success in the NCAA tournament deserves far more credence.
Two final notes on these conference rankings. First, all figures have been tallied according to present membership. The ACC gets retroactive credit for the Louisville Cardinals' tournament wins, for example, while the Big Ten receives retroactive blame for the five-year (and then some) futility of Rutgers.
Second, in counting tournament wins, I've tossed out victories recorded prior to the round of 64. Conferences earn no extra credit for having a team that barely makes the field and then wins its game in Dayton (as NC State did in March).
So without a further ado, here is your college basketball Power Five.
NCAA tournament wins since 2000: 176 (1st)
Five-season top-to-bottom strength: 2nd
No conference has navigated realignment even close to as well as the ACC has. Over the past few years, the ACC has added Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame (though not for football) and, most recently, Louisville to a conference that already includes Duke and UNC. The Big Ten head office will tell you that a school like Louisville isn't a fit with the rest of the league's member institutions in terms of academics. But for better or worse, the Cardinals make an already strong ACC even stronger.
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Jay Bilas, with an assist from John Gasaway, ranks his top 68 teams in college basketball.