Ranking Best College Basketball Conferences Heading Into March Madness

    Ranking the best college basketball conferences heading into March Madness. These are the top six in the nation.

    February 25, 2016

    Ranking the top six college basketball conferences in the nation as we head into March.

    The season is winding down, and everyone is focused on who the best team in the country might be or where their favorite team might be seeded when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

    But just as important as which individual team could cut down the nets is which conference that team might come from. Playing in a challenging conference can make all the difference in the world come tournament time, and history has shown time and time again that the teams that might get a little beat up in league play are sharpened and ready to roll when the Big Dance begins.

    Which leagues are the best right now? Here’s our top six.

    1. Big 12

    When a conference has six teams in the top 25, including five in the top 20, it’s obviously the toughest league in the land. Kansas has once again been the cream of the crop, but Oklahoma hasn’t been far behind. The Sooners were the No. 1 team in the country for a time, and OU features a Player of the Year candidate in Buddy Hield. Oklahoma has skidded a bit of late, but West Virginia has picked up the slack. Baylor, Texas and Iowa State have spent the past couple of months beating up on one another, which will make them all dangerous come tourney time, and Texas Tech has played the role of giant killer with wins over ISU, Baylor and Oklahoma in recent weeks. Tough battles mean tough teams in March.

    2. ACC

    The ACC is another league with six teams in the top 25, and although Louisville isn’t going to be playing in March (thanks, um, “impermissible benefits” (allegedly)), the Cardinals are still among the best teams around and will keep everyone sharp for the NCAAs. North Carolina is the class of the bunch, but the Tar Heels have been upset along the way and are challenged every time they play. Miami (Fla.) is a bit of an under-the-radar team this season despite hovering around the top 10 all year, and the likes of Virginia, Duke and Notre Dame can beat anyone at any time. None of these teams will be an easy out, and Pittsburgh will likely sneak in the tourney as well.

    3. Big Ten

    Yes, the Big Ten is a bit down this year. The bottom half of the league is unquestionably a step behind everyone else, but that doesn’t mean the conference is easy pickin’s. Indiana currently holds the top spot in the league, and the Hoosiers have the second-worst top 25 ranking among teams that are showing up in the polls. Michigan State, Iowa and Maryland have been dangerous all year, and Purdue has the size and talent to beat anyone. Oh, and Wisconsin and Ohio State are likely to get in the tourney, as well. In other words, the bottom half of the league might be down. The top half is a bloodbath, the kind that will push the conference far at the Dance.

    4. Pac-12

    The Pac-12 doesn’t feature as many ranked teams as the top three teams on our list, but it does feature two quality tiers of programs that have the potential to make waves. Arizona, Oregon and Utah are the class of the bunch, and they’ve taken turns beating up on one another all season. The next tier is California, USC and Colorado, and they are all teams that would hold their own in any other league in the country. No team in the Pac-12 suffered more than three non-conference losses, and there is nothing but non-conference foes waiting in the tourney.

    5. SEC

    The SEC gets a bit of a bad rap because it only has two teams in the top 25, and neither of those teams are in the top 15. Kentucky and Texas A&M have been up and down all season, but they are both programs that are built for March, especially when it comes to UK. The Wildcats spend the season waiting patiently to explode in the Big Dance, and they’re going to be a tough out. A&M has faded a bit recently, but they still are dangerous. Meanwhile, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are both tough every time they take the floor, and LSU features one of the best young talents in college basketball in Ben Simmons. LSU isn’t likely to go to the Tournament, but the Tigers aren’t going to back down from anyone.

    6. Big East

    Any league with two teams in the top five of the rankings has to make this list, and Villanova and Xavier are going to go into the tournament as favorites to get to the Final Four. That said, how sharp is either team going to be when they are looking for their one shining moment? Seton Hall and Providence (and maybe Butler) can get into the tournament, but they are very flawed teams, and Creighton has been up and down all year. The top in the Big East is very strong. The middle is solid. The rest, well, that’s why the Big East is down here.

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