The rules of college basketball discussion in 2012-13 are as follows: We must first talk about how amazing the Big Ten is, and then we must mourn the fate that has befallen the Big East, which is either degrading or possibly even dying before our eyes.
As it happens, the Big Ten really is amazing, and consequently you'll be seeing thousands of words from me on that very subject in the weeks and months to come. And sure, the Big East really is either degrading or dying before our eyes. But has anyone else noticed something strange? This troubled and fractious league is exceptionally good at basketball at the moment. With five teams in the AP Top 25 (Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Notre Dame), a sixth that should be (Pittsburgh) and an overall conference KenPom.com rating that's head and shoulders above what it was last season, the Big East is poised to bring down the glory-years curtain in style.
If you're comparing these two leagues, based on what we know now, the Big Ten is the best conference in Division I. At the moment, the league can claim no fewer than four top-10 teams (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois), and it may be the case that Minnesota or Michigan State will prove it deserves to be mentioned in that same breath. But a strong year for the Big Ten shouldn't obscure the fact that the Big East appears to have multiple Final Four contenders in its own right. These are pretty clearly the two best conferences in the nation, and we should probably be thinking of them as Nos. 1 and 1A, instead of the Big Ten and everybody else.
So instead of bowing our heads reverently and speaking in hushed tones around the Big East, let's take an admiring look at its best teams, any number of which might be found in Atlanta come April.