College basketball: Conference power rankings – ACC is loaded but Big Ten’s got issues

After the opening week of NCAA basketball, the college basketball conference power rankings see the ACC keep their crown as the top league in the nation.

1. ACC

With three teams in the preseason top 10, it is easy to see why they would begin the year atop these rankings. The season began with the Duke Blue Devils making the Kansas Jayhawks look like a junior varsity team, forcing 28 turnovers in their Champions Classic victory. Then, freshman star, Cole Anthony, poured in 34 points — as much as the entire Syracuse team scored in their first game — for the North Carolina Tar Heels who went 2-0 in their first week of action. As has been the case for the last few years, a lot of the top talent in the country resides in the ACC. Each game features a potential NBA draft pick. However, aside from the breadth of talent, the league holds the edge over the others here because they decided to begin the season with in-conference games. While some (read: Jim Boeheim) were not fans of it, having some real stake on these opening games made these first batch of meetings even more fun.

2. AAC

Many were interested in what Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers would be able to do this season after bringing in the top recruiting class in the nation. Well, thanks to the perceived number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, James Wiseman, their first game couldn’t have gone any better. However, moments before the second game the NCAA ruled Wiseman ineligible because Hardaway allegedly contributed money to the Wiseman family’s move from Nashville to Memphis in 2018. Yet, an injunction allowed the freshman to play and the belief is that he will continue to do so unless the NCAA hands down a firm judgment or the injunction gets overruled at a November 18 court date. With their class intact, the Tigers are worthy of keeping the AAC high in these weekly rankings. Don’t forget about the Houston Cougars either.

3. Pac-12

No East Coast bias here, the Pac-12 has come out the gates hot. No bigger win than the Washington Huskies upsetting the then-No. 16 Baylor Bears at the Armed Forces Classics. The Huskies also represent the conference’s best chance at getting a team to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Washington has the right mix of veterans (Quade Green, Naziah Carter, Jamal Bey) and youth (five-star recruits, Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart) to be a pesky team all year. Elsewhere, Mick Cronin has sprinkled his defense-first style on Los Angeles basketball at UCLA. Oregon has a lot of talented pieces at every position. Arizona is ranked in the top 25 and Utah put up a jaw-dropping 143 points on Friday night.

4. SEC

The Kentucky Wildcats took down the top team in their opening matchup against the Michigan State Spartans and will likely begin this week as the number one team in the country. Auburn got a nice neutral court win over a savvy and veteran-laden Davidson team. No. 22 LSU’s strong sophomore class led the way in the first game. Yet, the Florida Gators — a trendy pick to win the SEC this season — were a major letdown as they dropped the annual in-state rivalry meeting versus the Florida State Seminoles. The depth and length of FSU were bothersome of the team from Gainesville. It’s early, but for all the hype and talent that Mike White has, the Gators have yet to showcase that they are one of the best teams in college basketball.

5. Big East

Once conference play begins these teams will likely beat up on each other but for now, this group has gotten off to a commendable start to the year. Throughout the year Seton Hall, Villanova and Xavier will be the torch-bearers for this conference. Those three are undefeated to start the season yet there are a couple of big games on the horizon this week. The Pirates (who could be without preseason All-American, Myles Powell) get to play Michigan State at home and Villanova will travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. A clean sweep of those matchups will result in a big leap in their rankings next week. As for now, they’ve been neither a disappointment or blaring success to begin the year. Coming in at around the median of this list seems about right for the conference.

6. Big 12

We mentioned the Jayhawks’ poor performance against Duke already and Baylor’s loss to Washington and those are two of the three teams from the conference that were ranked in the preseason polls. Texas Tech is the third and they’ve handled themselves accordingly but they also have yet to face a real test. The Red Raiders are looking to build on the team’s success as they made it to the national title game last year. Texas’ road upset of the Purdue Boilermakers is the only thing keeping them from debuting at the bottom of these rankings. The Oklahoma Sooners also beat a Big Ten opponent (Minnesota) which just reinforces who should come in last place in the conference power rankings after the first week of play.

7. Big Ten

The Spartans didn’t look terrible in defeat but Cassius Winston was needed way too much for Tom Izzo’s liking. Maryland has won both of their games and look the part of a true contender as the season starts. Ohio State out-toughed Cincinnati and the Buckeyes are currently undefeated with a game against Villanova upcoming. That’s where the good news ends. Michigan held off a ferocious comeback from Appalachian State to get Juwan Howard his first-ever victory as a head coach. Rutgers barely beat Bryant at home. Illinois and Wisconsin couldn’t get wins over ranked opponents. Nebraska lost to UC Riverside and Southern Utah. It’s been 19 years since a Big Ten team won the national championship and they look far away from ending that streak this season.

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