Ranking the power five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 12, and SEC) by level of excitement in their respective conference tournaments
Every college basketball fan out there knows that March is a sacred time shared by a university’s basketball team and their fans. It is the time of year where hearts are broken for some while hope is instilled in others. And this wonderful culmination of the college basketball season starts within each conference and their respective tournament.
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The winner of each conference tournament gets an automatic spot into the coveted NCAA tournament pool.
This creates a certain level of energy that is absent during the regular season.
Virtually any team has a chance to join the big dance even if their regular season record does not show it. Mid majors have an opportunity to compete with national power houses. Ranked teams are upset more often than they should be. And most importantly, madness ensues.
In the power five conferences, this level of excitement is only multiplied as the nation’s top teams collide in single elimination style. Whether it be the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, or PAC 12, each conference tournament holds its own unique presence in college basketball. There is something about the power five conferences that separates them from the others.
So I will now rank the Power five conferences by level of excitement their tournament brings to the table as the most electrifying time in college basketball begins to unfold.
Next: 5. Southeastern Conference
The SEC was completely dominated by the Kentucky Wildcats this year. The Southeastern Conference, which typically sends 5+ teams to the NCAA tournament yearly might only see a couple go this season. Despite being extremely top heavy with Kentucky and Arkansas leading the pack, the annual conference tournament should host a bunch of good match ups and story lines that will provide March with a little extra madness before the NCAA tournament begins.
First of all, if Kentucky ends up winning out, they will be the first team since Indiana in 1976 to end the year undefeated. This will definitely be a team to remember in the history of college basketball.
Kentucky’s next challenge will be getting by their conference foes the SEC tournament. But if the past is any indication what the result will be, Kentucky will most likely be cutting down the nets this weekend. In sports, it’s always a fun thing to see a team go the distance and end the year without a loss, which just hypes up this year’s conference tournament that much more.
Additionally, the SEC tournament potentially could see a rematch between #18 Arkansas and rival Tennessee. Tennessee handed Arkansas one of its six losses in a stunning five point upset earlier this season. A meeting between the two would be an awesome rematch to see. Tennessee is trying to snag one of those “last four in” spots in the NCAA tournament and Arkansas looks to build its resume even further for a higher seed. But, Tennessee will have to get by a tough Vanderbilt team if they even want another crack at Arkansas.
Historically, the SEC tournament has seen some crazy things.
In 2008, a tornado forced the tournament to move from the Georgia Dome to the Alexander Memorial Coliseum postponing games and not allowing fans to attend. This tournament end up with the Georgia Bulldogs beating Arkansas 66-57. So the tornado postponed, but could not stop the Bulldogs from hoisting the SEC tournament trophy in the air that year.
This year, while Kentucky is still heavily favored, the SEC tournament should see a lot of great match ups and unlikely occurrences. Hopefully tornadoes all steer clear of Nashville, as the Bridgestone arena will be the venue in which some of the best programs in college basketball duke it out in order to gain a NCAA tournament bid.
Next: 4. Big 12
4. Big 12
After the shenanigans that took place after Kansas State upset Kansas earlier this year, is there a rematch in college basketball that has more build up attached to it? Probably not.
The Big 12 tournament always is a host to a plethora of intense college basketball games.
In 2007, a Kevin Durant led Texas team attempted to dethrone the previous year’s winner, Kansas. In a game that could not be decided by regulation alone, Kansas erased a 22 point lead to win 88-84 in overtime. Durant actually had a chance to win the game in the second half, but he missed a lay up as time expired forcing the overtime. Kansas would then pull away and win by four.
While Kansas is favored to come out of the Big 12 this year they have been absolutely abysmal in conference play. Five of their seven losses have come from teams in the Big 12 this year. To put that in perspective, if Kansas had not struggled so hard in their conference they would be up there in the rankings with #2 Virginia and #1 Kentucky.
But that is the nature of the Big 12 every year. Teams are so close together in talent that they consistently beat each other up in a way that other conferences do not. Even though the tournament will be hosted at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. This will mean that K-State fans will have no problem making the drive to cheer on their Wildcats. And if they end up upsetting Kansas again, it will most likely end in more court storming.
Hopefully this time it doesn’t get as violent. But none of this subtracts from the excitement the tournament will bring college basketball fans. It anything, it probably adds to it.
Next: 3. PAC 12
3. PAC 12
The PAC 12 has been crazy this year to begin with. Arizona has shown up as one of the best teams in the NCAA, while USC has won as many games in conference play as Arizona has lost (3). UCLA is hoping to end the year with a little fire while Utah is eyeing its first chance at an NCAA championship since Andrew Bogut called himself a Ute.
Then when you consider what this tournament has meant in years past for teams in the PAC 12, it should build up the suspense just a bit more. Since the tournament’s reconstruction in 2002, the PAC 12 has not had a champion come out of the conference. But with Arizona playing great team basketball and potentially facing off against conference rival UCLA in the third round, who can really say they aren’t looking forward to a little basketball this weekend?
But the thing that is the best about the PAC 12 is that there isn’t one or two teams that are consistently dominant like in the ACC. While UCLA and Arizona do hold the most PAC 12 tournament championships, seven different teams have come out on top in the history of the PAC 12. So each year you get a taste of something a little different rather than the same teams consistently dominating the conference.
Additionally, the top seed coming into the tournament only wins about 35% of the time. And the 6th seed has even won the tournament twice. This is what people love about college basketball so much. The unpredictability in college basketball is evidenced by the PAC 12 tournament every year, which is what makes it so exciting to see every March.
So as Washington State battles California to open the tournament on Wednesday, college basketball fans everywhere will be tuning in to some of the most exciting basketball in the NCAA played at the MGM Grand Garden arena in Las Vegas.
Next: 2. Big Ten
2. Big Ten
The Big Ten is one of the most competitive and intense conference tournaments in basketball. Not to mention the fact that it is played at the place where Michael Jordan used to play home games for the Chicago Bulls. The outstanding athletes in the Big Ten come together once a year to compete in this awesome tournament, where the fans are loud, the play is competitive for the most part, and rivalries are abundant.
The Big Ten is home to some of the most iconic coaches in college basketball. Whether it is Tom Izzo from Michigan State, Tom Crean from Indiana, or John Beilein for Michigan, these coaches always get there teams ready to go when tournament time comes around. This is also part of the reason the games are always so competitive. Even when teams like the Michigan Wolverines aren’t having the best year, they still always compete with a ranked opponent.
Years of this competitive play has sparked rivalry after rivalry to emerge. One of the most classic of these heated battles is the Michigan-Michigan State match up. The two teams are only 60 miles from one another, but when the Wolverines and the Spartans head to Chicago during the conference tournament there is no home court advantage. Just two teams colliding with one another for forty minutes.
Perhaps even a more storied rivalry is when Michigan faces off against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The teams have played each other 157 times over the years, and the win differential between the two is surprisingly small.
Additionally, these two teams are continually power houses in the Big 10. So when they play each other in conference play, it typically involves a high amount of stakes. Even though both of these teams are having disappointing seasons, it does not subtract from the emotional contest if they step of the court against one another when next weekend comes along.
Another interesting thing about the Big Ten tournament is that it always allows for an upset to take place.
The conference frequently has ranked teams who have their eyes set on a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. This year three teams are ranked in the top 25: Maryland, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. None of which will be able to stroll past any team in the Big Ten tournament. Upsets are as common as a team is to be nationally ranked in the Big Ten. This year, look for teams such as Michigan or Illinois to hit their stride late and come out on top in the tournament.
Excitability is at an all-time high this year in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is looking to hold on to that #6 ranking and maybe snag a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. While teams like Northwestern (15-16), Indiana (19-12), Purdue (20-11), and Iowa (21-10) are looking to be the next Cinderella story and gain some momentum moving forward in March. Whatever the case may be for each team the hype will be at maximum capacity come March 12th.
Next: 1. ACC
The ACC tournament is what NCAA basketball is all about. Top level teams, crazy fans, and world famous rivalries.
First of all, the ACC is one of the most prestigious conferences in college basketball. They constantly have teams in the top 25. And this year, five teams are nationally ranked going into the tournament. Virginia is currently the #2 team in the nation, and they’re only two losses come from two teams in the ACC: Louisville and Duke. This makes me think that any team can lose at any point in time during the conference tournament. Even if that means a ridiculous upset might happen.
There is something about playing within your conference at a neutral site that is so tough. This gives every team a chance in the ACC, making it one hell of an exciting time during the conference tournament. Another thing Duke is known for is their insane fans. The Cameron Crazies are notorious for rocking Cameron indoor loud enough so that when opposing teams come to visit, the advantage for the Blue Devils is huge. But this all doesn’t matter, as the tournament is held at the Greensboro coliseum, where faithful fans will travel from across the country to cheer on their school and the Cameron Crazies will be in an unfamiliar place as the chant and scream throughout the game.
The ACC also owns one of the best rivalries in sports in Duke vs. North Carolina. Both teams always carry phenomenal talent and have iconic coaches. Coach K for Duke has the most wins in NCAA history. Roy Williams has led the Tar Heels into battle since 2003 and has the 8th best win percentage in NCAA history. If this isn’t enough to build up the rivalry, the fans absolutely hate each other. Just ten miles separate the two in Chapel Hill and it seems each team thinks it holds the rightful place as the #1 team in the area. This allows for some of the most thrilling wins and heartbreaking losses.
If you put all of this together it makes the excitement level in the ACC rise tremendously. Everyone will be on the edge of their seats. As each possession passes the athletes anticipation will grow when their dreams of making the NCAA tournament comes to fruition. There isn’t much more you can ask for in sports. Top tier teams, hype among crazy fans, and one of the greatest rivalries of all times will transition into one ridiculous week of college hoops.
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