College basketball conference rankings: Big East back on top

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: (L to R) Head coaches Patrick Ewing of the Georgetown Hoyas and Ed Cooley of the Providence Friars talk before a college basketball game at the Capital One Arena on February 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 19: (L to R) Head coaches Patrick Ewing of the Georgetown Hoyas and Ed Cooley of the Providence Friars talk before a college basketball game at the Capital One Arena on February 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

What a weekend we just witnessed in college basketball. Three of the top four teams all and the craziest season in recent memory continues.

1. Big East

There’s been a change at the top of the conference power rankings for the first one in weeks. Similar to what we witnessed with the AP Poll this week. The change is due to the overall production of the conference. While Seton Hall, Villanova and Creighton are still fighting for the conference title, teams like Xavier and Providence have been battling on the bubble to keep hope alive. With just 10 teams in the conference, there’s a very likely chance that over half of the teams find their way into the NCAA Tournament when the calendar changes to March.

2. Big 12

It gets lonely at the top and due to some in-fighting, the Big 12 finds their grip on the number one spot slip away. Kansas vs. Baylor lived up to the hype and then some over the weekend. The Jayhawks were able to return the favor from earlier this year and get a road win over a top-five team. Elsewhere, after being on the hot seat, Shaka Smart got a huge win for Texas in taking down West Virginia. Who knows how long that will satisfy the people of Austin — especially with John Beilein available — but Smart is in a better place today than he was last week. The Mountaineers have now dropped back-to-back games against inferior opponents. I would not want to be around Bob Huggins right now.

3. SEC

For two teams with no chance of playing in March, the game between Georgia and Vanderbilt sure was fun. The programs have a combined five conference wins this season but you wouldn’t have guessed it watch them go back-and-forth for 40 minutes was everything fans could hope for in a college basketball game. Right down to the nearly impossible heave to beat the buzzer and win the game. However, Auburn, Kentucky — who will face off once again this week — and LSU are doing all that they can to keep the SEC respectable in comparison to the other major conferences. During March Madness, any of those three teams could find themselves in Atlanta.

4. Big Ten

The Big Ten will get the most teams into the NCAA Tournament. This March will serve as their best chance to break a 20-year championship drought just based on the sheer volume of teams that they’ll have participating. Yet, even with all of those teams playing there’s yet to be one to really feel like they could cut down the nets. Michigan State was the favorite to start the year. Illinois had a chance to steal away the conference but couldn’t hold on. Now, Maryland — led by Anthony Cowan Jr. — is the team to beat and they were also highly thought of entering the year. The Terrapins, who came into the conference in the Summer of 2014, could be the team that finally brings a national title back to the Big Ten.

5. Pac-12

Do I have a solid and fact-based argument for putting the Pac-12 above the other two remaining conferences in the rankings? No. What I do have is the need to wax poetically about the recent play of Oregon Ducks senior guard, Payton Pritchard. He played the full 45 minutes of his team’s overtime win over the Arizona Wildcats — the second of the year in that manner — and scored a career-high 38 points. He was unstoppable. He got to the rim at will. He dribbled around and through defenders. He drained 3-pointers. He drained even deeper 3-pointers. He did everything to make sure the Ducks got a win and that was exactly what they did. Can’t wait to see what he’s got left in his bag for March but I know it’s going to be special for sure.

6. ACC

There are three teams worthy of following for the rest of the season in the ACC. The first is Duke. The Blue Devils are a strong team with a lot of talent and a Hall of Fame coach — the same as every year since Mike Krzyzewski was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. The next is Louisville. The transition from Rick Pitino and Chris Mack has been seamless for the most part. The Cardinals are back to being an elite program and do so by imposing their will on their opponent every game. Finally, there’s Florida State. The Seminoles are deep, tall, athletic, tough and fearless. Leonard Hamilton has taken the program to heights that only a few thought could be done.

7. American

Not that long ago, a one-point win by Memphis over Houston would’ve been a huge deal. Like, almost leap the conference up to number one type of huge. Now, it’s a win that makes us feel that there’s a shot at Penny Hardaway and the Tigers getting “all da smoke” that they spoke about before the start of the season. Things have gotten to the point where even the Cincinnati Bearcats can’t provide enough grit to make the conference stand out above the others. We’ll see what happens with these programs as the season goes on but for now, it doesn’t look like they’ll be reaching the lofty goals that some places on them heading into the year.

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