By Ryan Hannegan
It’s about that time in the college basketball season when every game counts more and teams are closely examined to determine who will make the final 68 and advance into the NCAA Tournament.
When teams are selected, there are multiple factors taken into account to determine who makes the cut and who doesn’t.
Strength of schedule, regular season record and conference record are all important aspects to consider during this process.
Sometimes record alone can make it difficult to determine how good a team is. When a team’s schedule leaves it playing tougher teams than others on the bubble who may have better records.
While most conferences have a couple of really good teams, there are usually a few bottom dwellers that everybody else can use to pad their records. That’s not the case in conferences like the Big 12 or Big Ten, which have grueling schedules, so even good teams are piling up losses.
This begs the question, who has the best men’s basketball conference in America? As the saying goes, numbers never lie. Putting all biases aside, the stats show that the Big 12 is on top.
Ratings percentage index is one of the most important things to look at when seeing how good conferences are compared to others. RPI basically measures where a conference is ranked based on the strength of schedule or how good the teams are that the conference is playing throughout the year.
The Big 12 is No. 1 in that category and the Big Ten is No. 2. Although it might not seem like much of a difference, when broken down to the records against teams outside the conference ranked in the top 50, the Big 12 still wins.
The Big Ten is 10-18 (35.7 win percentage) compared to the Big 12 who is 13-16 (44.8 win percentage). The Big Ten does have the head-to-head advantage, 3-4 , but that is too close and small of a sample size to tell us much of anything.
According to cbssports.com, the Big 12 is projected to have seven NCAA tournament bids compared to six for the Big Ten. While this may not seem like a big difference, it is important to remember that, confusingly, the Big 12 has 10 teams while the Big Ten has 12 teams meaning 70 percent of Big 12 teams are projected to get in compared to only 50 percent of Big Ten teams.
Supporters of the Big Ten might say that their conference teams consistently make it farther in the NCAA tournament with teams such as Michigan St. and Ohio St. who are seemingly in the Final Four every year.
While this argument does hold some truth, this is not a good indicator of the strength of the conference as a whole.
Individual teams that make it far in the NCAA tournament don’t hold much bearing on the entire conference performance. The NCAA tournament is more about individual teams making runs and only represents a very small portion of the conference. It simply doesn’t embody how well the entire conference did.
It can be argued which conference has the best individual teams, but when determining how good a conference is outright, that argument doesn’t really hold much weight.
Making that argument is like saying the Eastern Conference is the best in the NBA because the Miami Heat have won the last two NBA championships.
It’s pretty easy to counter that argument when there are three teams in the East who have losing records and still hold a playoff spot. While in the West, the No. 9 team has a better record than the No. 3 team in the East.
While it is true that the Big Ten is an incredible basketball conference, it just doesn’t hold up against the best basketball conference in America: the Big 12, which has not only the RPI to back that up but also the highest number of projected bids for the NCAA Tournament.
Ryan Hannegan is a junior sports, sponsorship and sales major from Highland Village. He is a reporter for The Lariat.