By Marisa Miller, Butler University
Now that we all have had some time to digest the events of the National Championship Game (literally what did we all even watch in those last 30 seconds?!), it is now time for my definitive and absolutely accurate rankings of each of the conferences this year. The idea was to rank the Power 5 conferences and rank them all based on their performances in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. But, unfortunately, the SEC wasn’t really much to look at this year (sorry Texas A&M, Kentucky and Vandy didn’t help your cause). In lieu of the SEC, I have added the Big East to my rankings based on their number of bids into the tournament.
After Louisville’s early March Sadness with their self-imposed postseason ban for this year’s season, the ACC lost a likely-tournament bound team very early on. But they didn’t let that stop them, still sending seven teams to the tournament. After losing only one team in the first round (Pittsburgh), the remaining six teams all at least made in to the Sweet Sixteen. Two of the four Elite Eight matchups and one of the Final Four matchups (aka the entire right side of the bracket) included all-ACC games. UNC fought hard in the championship game but fell short to Villanova. But that Marcus Page three-pointer was easily one of the most spectacular shots I have ever seen.
2. Big 12
The Big 12 also sent a tournament-high seven teams to the Dance this year. I know what you are thinking, the Big 12 had four of their seven teams lose in the first round. How are they ranked this high? The answer is simple: Kansas and Oklahoma were just too good. With both teams making at least the Elite Eight and Oklahoma making the Final Four, the Big 12 was able to be redeemed after the poor first round performance. Oklahoma also boasts the undisputed POTY in Buddy Hield. Hield won both the Wooden Award (top player) and the Jerry West Award (best shooting guard) this season. Also, Kansas has Wayne Selden, Jr. and his uncle, Anthony. Need I say any more?
3. Big East
Why is the Big East down so low? Villanova won the whole tournament in a very impressive buzzer-beater fashion! Shouldn’t that give them grounds to be higher? Well, yes and no. While I agree that Villanova had an absolutely spectacular tournament run to win the national championship. But Xavier’s second round tournament ending to Wisconsin was almost as sad as Michigan State’s (almost is a loose term). Xavier was projected by many to give UNC a run for their money in the East Regional final. Oops. Also, Seton Hall, coming off a very impressive Big East championship win against Villanova, underperformed against Gonzaga. Providence and Butler both lost to number one seeds, so I can’t give them much flack for that (Butler should have pulled it off against Virginia…). On a positive note, Providence’s Kris Dunn is projected to be a top-five NBA Draft lottery pick, and numerous other Big East players are going to be testing the draft waters as well.
4. Big Ten
Honestly, poor Michigan State. AP Player of the Year and Wooden Award runner-up Denzel Valentine didn’t deserve that to end his collegiate career. Also, Purdue’s loss was another major shock during the first round of tournament play. After that, the Big Ten was basically done in the tournament and couldn’t really dig their way out of that hole. IU fought hard to defeat Kentucky but then made the Big Ten look sad again during their Sweet Sixteen loss to UNC. Iowa could barely beat Temple in the first round and had no chance against Villanova in the second. Wisconsin’s defeat of Xavier was impressive and stayed right in there against Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen. Maryland also made it safely to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Kansas. But one thing is for sure, IU’s Yogi Ferrell and Valentine are going to make stellar NBA players.
Five of the Pac-12’s seven tournament teams lost in the first round. FIVE. After Cal lost their best player due to injury, they really didn’t stand a chance against Hawaii. UCONN was on far too much American conference tournament momentum to let Colorado beat them. Arizona and Oregon State both lost in similar ways to Wichita State and VCU. Providence and USC were pretty evenly matched, with Providence having the edge (*cough* Kris Dunn *cough*), so I can’t be too mad about that one. In the second round, Utah lost very sadly (honestly, did they even show up?) to Gonzaga by 23 points. Oregon was the only bright spot for the Pac-12, making it to the Elite Eight and losing only to a very, very good Oklahoma team. I really hope the Pac-12 will be better next year, but I’m not optimistic.