Power Conference Rankings: Amended

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @zhayes9.

I don’t ever remember a season where more coaches challenged their teams this early in the non-conference. From mandatory league challenges to aircraft carrier showdowns to champions meeting at Madison Square Garden, you haven’t had to search too hard to find a compelling matchup on any given night the last three-plus weeks. The result: frequent opportunities to judge teams against high-quality competition rather than the usual slate of cupcakes. Enough lasting impressions have been made to revise some of our pre-season prognostications and compile an updated conference power ranking.

(Note: as punishment for their embarrassing early-season performance, the Pac-12 can no longer be considered on par with the other major conferences. We’ll revisit this again in January).

Despite two losses, Marshall and UNC still class of ACC


  1. North Carolina. Some toughness questions answered in Kentucky close loss. Marshall an assist machine but often exploited on the other end. Still a clear Final Four favorite based on talent level.
  2. Duke. No reliable low post scorer, perimeter defense leaves much to be desired and only Rivers can beat you off the dribble. Still boasts a plethora of shooters, very efficient, three really solid wins to date. Top 10 team.
  3. Florida State. Competitive in any game because of length, defense, athleticism. Extremely turnover prone and Snaer disappears. Return of PG Ian Miller could help.
  4. Virginia. Also proficient defensively in the halfcourt and on the glass. Stagnant offensively unless Mike Scott decides to take over. Double-double machine needs to be all-ACC for Cavs to excel.
  5. Miami. Overly dependent on Grant/Scott guard duo. Started no one taller than 6’6 vs. Purdue. Badly needs Reggie Johnson back to punch ticket.
  6. NC State. Really struggles to execute in the halfcourt and allowing 41% from 3. Also extremely athletic and C.J. Leslie has been really active which is a great sign. Texas scalp could be big bubble win.
  7. Virginia Tech. No excuse losing to Minnesota with Mbakwe/Sampson out. Erick Green backing up breakout predictions, Dorenzo Hudson MIA. Appears NIT-bound.
  8. Maryland. Obvious rebuild year but Stoglin will keep them in any game. Could be frisky second half with Turgeon’s coaching ability if shooting improves and Howard/Len can contribute.
  9. Clemson. Big Brownell believer but three regrettable home losses already to Charleston, Coastal Carolina and weak South Carolina squad. Andre Young bright spot.
  10. Wake Forest. Competitive vs. Dayton then gets torched by terrible ASU squad. Post defense is an issue. Wish Travis McKie could get recognized.
  11. Georgia Tech. 52 points against Tulane. 53 vs. St. Joe’s. 50 vs. LSU. 193rd in offensive efficiency, 266th in turnover percentage, 263rd from 3. Pretty obvious they can’t score.
  12. Boston College.  A team of freshmen that need to be developed. KenPom page features more red than the Communist Army.

Big 12

  1. Kansas. Road to title goes through Lawrence until further notice. Jayhawks defend year in year out. Robinson is a first team All-American. Only questions are depth, turnovers and Withey holding up.
  2. Missouri. Impressive in early going. Big difference is Kim English finding his stroke. Denmon, Pressey criminally underrated. Still vulnerable vs. big teams especially if Ratliffe gets in foul trouble.
  3. Baylor. Competition has been a joke but responded well to Northwestern zone. Won’t totally buy in until guards face stiffer test. Quincy Miller best frosh no one is talking about.
  4. Texas A&M. Desperately need Middleton back to fix stagnant offense. Dash Harris solid floor leader/defender but Balbay-esque offensively. Screams 8/9 seed.
  5. Texas. Brown could lead conference in scoring if his head is on straight. Kabongo high assist rate and will only go up. Any frontcourt help, especially on D boards, and this is still an NCAA team.
  6. Kansas State. Balanced scoring, Henriquez imposing in post, playing tough Frank Martin D against weaker competition. WVU on Thursday toughest test to date.
  7. Oklahoma State. Early struggles normal for any freshman, even one as talented as Nash. Poke I expected more from is JP Olukemi.
  8. Iowa State. Royce White risk paying early dividends. Individual parts tantalizing but no true point to put puzzle pieces together.
  9. Oklahoma. Kruger was a steal hire but this is a 2-3 year process. Enough talent sprayed around roster – Pledger, Clark, Osby, Grooms – to pull upset or two in Big 12 play.
  10. Texas Tech. Cover your children’s eyes. But, hey, Gillispie’s led teams out of the wilderness in Lone Star State before. Don’t count him out.


Big East

  1. Syracuse. Legit 8-9 deep, lethal in transition, extremely disruptive in the 2-3 zone. Any of their three main guards can play hero on a given night. Refined Melo. National title contender. Nitpick: free throws.
  2. Connecticut. Oriakhi/Drummond still learning to play together. Same with Napier and Boatright. Lamb developing into go-to guy role, can’t disappear like during FSU game. Work in progress. Could peak in March…again.
  3. Louisville. No team better conditioned or plays harder. Will be able to press once they add Ware, Blackshear, Buckles for depth. Can lock you up zone or man. Jennings-to-Dieng transition seamless.
  4. Marquette. Commendable win in Madison without starting PG. DJO can break you down, Crowder crazy efficient. Major strides defensively thus far, must sustain to remain in top four.
  5. Georgetown. Henry Sims perfect high post big in Princeton system. Thompson and Clark give them two legit jump shooters. If Starks keeps ship steady, Hoyas are a sleeper.
  6. Pittsburgh. Woodall injury could sting but soft schedule until 1/14 at Marquette. Must toughen up defensively. Torched in the paint. I’d be foolish to doubt Jamie Dixon.
  7. West Virginia. Shocker: Bob Huggins-coached team is top ten in offensive rebounding. Roster lacks a go-to guy. Lack of depth, outside shooting, consistent scoring could send them to bubble.
  8. Villanova. Higher ceiling than WVU but least talented team Wright has had in a while. Defense has been mediocre for three years. Dom Cheek must step up. Wayns, Yarou solid 1-2 punch.
  9. Cincinnati. Can’t score from inside or make free throws. Staggering lack of depth. Yancy Gates with 5 points in 36 minutes at Georgia inexcusable. Must ride defense to NCAA berth again.
  10. Seton Hall. Willard is doing a nice job with very little to work with. Herb Pope carries a huge load and does it efficiently. Theodore also underrated. Can unheralded supporting cast make this more than a 2-man operation?
  11. Notre Dame. With Abro this was barely an NCAA contender. Without Abro they appear lost on both ends and will be lucky to be on the bubble.
  12. St. John’s. Teams just sag and dare them to shoot. Entire team is new so growing pains evident. Length and athleticism in matchup zone could give teams problems. Goal should be some sort of postseason for more experience.
  13. DePaul. Competitive behind Young/Melvin tag-team which is more than you could say a couple years ago.
  14. Providence. Ed Cooley learning you can’t teach an old dog new tricks with Keno’s players on the defensive end. Needs some of his own guys in there to change mindset.
  15. Rutgers. Disappointing start for semi-sleeper team preseason with losses to Miami, Illinois State, Richmond and LSU.
  16. South Florida. Not sure Stan Heath can survive this round.

Aaron Craft, best perimeter defender in the nation, leads Big 10 favorite OSU

Big Ten

  1. Ohio State. Perimeter of Craft, Buford and Smith can lock you up, knock down shots and penetrate. DeShaun Thomas shooting 60% from inside the arc. Oh yeah, they also have Sully. Clearly the best team last year, could be again.
  2. Wisconsin. Too dependent on the 3 and Jordan Taylor for my liking, but role players Berggren and Brust better than I expected. Incredible how they imposed their style on UNC.
  3. Michigan. No low-post scoring and vulnerable on the glass, but Hardaway can create his own shot and Burke is playing more like a senior than a freshman.
  4. Michigan State. Winning ugly is the formula. Draymond Green asked to do more than any one, but improvement of Appling as a point guard holds key to success.
  5. Purdue. Frontcourt scoring outside of Hummel certainly lacking, but Matt Painter simply won’t allow his teams to let up on the defensive end. Jackson one of the better distributors in the nation.
  6. Illinois. Sal Maniscalso was a fantastic under-the-radar addition. Leonard skilled, stronger and confident. Need to see sustained effort/consistency, but that may be a problem of the past.
  7. Indiana. Soft schedule but has dominated- 14th in offensive efficiency, top-20 in both two and three point shooting. Would have lost NC State game last year. Zeller tremendous on both ends.
  8. Northwestern. Not enough athletically to defend at a high level. Only chance against team like Baylor is to make threes. 4/26 vs. Bears, mediocre 35% on season. Drew Crawford overshadowed by Shurna, shouldn’t be.
  9. Minnesota. Patchwork guard rotation. Losing Mbakwe sealed their fate.
  10. Nebraska. Losing at home to Wake Forest simply can’t happen but responded well vs. Creighton. Same problems as always: they’ll defend like hell, but can’t score sufficiently.
  11. Iowa. Melsahn Basabe: 8 points in first four games. What the heck happened?
  12. Penn State. Lost everyone but Tim Frazier. 3-4 year rebuild for Tom Chambers. Beat USF!


  1. Kentucky.  Arguably further along than any other freshman-dominated Cal team at this point. Most talented top 6 with supersub Darius Miller. Lamb is an assassin. Physical, bruising frontline could give Anthony Davis trouble in March.
  2. Florida. Murphy a significant loss against Cuse’s zone. Excellent guard play. Boynton playing his best basketball and Beal does it all. They just need Patric Young to keep improving.
  3. Alabama. Arguably the best halfcourt defensive team in the country. Incoming freshman Lacey and Randolph haven’t cured outside shooting woes. Mitchell looked all-SEC when healthy.
  4. Vanderbilt. Jenkins is a shorter Ray Allen. Perimeter defense is suspect, Ezeli will help post D but he’s not Bill Russell. Taylor needs to step up in big moments. Still a dangerous team.
  5. Mississippi State. Efficiency stats don’t exactly jive with top-25 ranking. Got A&M and Arizona at opportune time, but still signs it may be coming together. Moultrie is a double-double machine.
  6. Tennessee. Clear drop-off from 5 to 6 but more and more convinced Martin was the right hire. Vols are playing extremely hard.
  7. Mississippi. Could easily have five losses but give Rebels credit for winning close games. Five players in double digits but none is a true #1 or even #2 option on a contender. Shooting 25% from 3.
  8. Georgia. Woeful offensively but Fox has them competing. Caldwell-Pope learning trial-by-fire.
  9. Arkansas. Loss of Marshawn Powell stymied any bubble hopes. B.J. Young showed why he’s a future star last Saturday.
  10. Auburn. Varez Ward underrated transfer: 11.4 PPG, 5:2 A/T, 48% FG, 45% 3pt.
  11. LSU. Brutal on the offensive end. Already losses against Coastal Carolina and South Alabama, escapes against Georgia Tech, Houston and Rutgers.
  12. South Carolina.  Will return of Bruce Ellington make enough of a difference?
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13 responses to “Power Conference Rankings: Amended”

  1. Andrew says:

    Ohio State was clearly the best team last year? They may have been the best team mid-season, but didn’t finish like a best team is supposed to finish.

  2. zhayes9 says:

    Correct. #1 in offensive efficiency, #5 in defensive efficiency, lost 2 conference road games when the opposing best player went nuts for 30+. They ended the year by winning the Big 10 tournament, garnering the #1 overall seed and losing on a buzzer beater to a national semifinalist.

  3. Max says:

    Is the PAC-12 absent becasue the conference is so bad or by mistake?

  4. BOtskey says:

    I thought Ohio State was the best last year as well. The best team doesn’t always win it.

    It’s amazing how mediocre the ACC has become over this past decade. The bottom of the conference is awful while the middle has a bunch of bubble teams at best.

    Based on play to date, the Big 12 race may be the most captivating. Kansas, Missouri and Baylor could all win it.

    The Big Ten may be the deepest conference in the land, an honor usually reserved for the Big East. Your top 8 Big Ten teams may all be in NCAA contention.

    Lots of dead weight in the Big East. Every team from #12 on down is bad and it looks like Notre Dame is close to joining that group.

  5. nvr1983 says:

    Zach says at the top that the PAC-12 will be reconsidered as a major conference in January, but right now they don’t belong.

  6. Harrison Barnes says:

    Kentucky beat that Ohio St team 8 months ago, Kansas 3 weeks ago, and North Carolina 2 days ago. I guess being super-strong didn’t make any difference for the conference ranking? One thing people forget: Road Games in the SEC are far tougher because the crowds are nuts, especially when UK comes to town. UK is long, talented, versatile, and improving. Get on board.

  7. Real Talk Jimmy says:

    Ohio State may have been the better team when they piled up their first 28 wins, but by tourney time, the UK frosh: BKnight, Lamb, and Jones had gelled with Harrelson, Miller, and Liggins to give UK the best defensive team in the country. They were the better team in the end. UNC and UCONN would have beaten Ohio St too. The Buckeyes have PLATEAUED. UK by March 2012- SCARY!!

  8. rtmsf says:

    Not sure why it’s so hard to understand that the best team doesn’t always win the NCAA Tournament, but it’s a fact of life given our system (which is still better than using polls and computer rankings one step removed from the Helms Trophy days). OSU was the best team in 2011, Kansas in 2010, UNC in 2009, tough call in 2008 (any of four teams), Florida in 2007, etc.

  9. Indy Passer byer says:

    The best team doesn’t always win, true.

    But Kansas was better than UK in 2010? John Wall, Cousins, Patterson and Bledsoe lost 2 games just like Kansas, and would have POUNDED overrated Sherron Collins & Cole Aldrich.

    And OSU leveled-off last year. UK handled them, and so would Carolina, UCONN, and Butler.

    If Knight misses the buzzer beater, OSU doesn’t win, it was TIED. OSU would’ve lost in OT. Get over it.

  10. rtmsf says:

    WVU was the best team Kentucky played all season in 2010, by far. Kansas had played and beaten far better teams — they looked past UNI, which is a Bill Self tendency, but they would not have looked past UK.

    There’s really nothing to get over. I’m not bawling into my pillow b/c KU lost in 2010 or OSU lost in 2011, I can guarantee you that. It’s our system of deciding a champion and I love it, but reasonable minds will differ on who the best team was. I thought UK ’10 was incredibly talented but also overrated, and it was borne out that when they played a really good team, they lost convincingly.

    Edited to add: Before UK fans get all angry, look at 2003. UK was the best team that year. It lost to Marquette rather convincingly in the E8, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Wildcats were in fact the best team of that season. Syracuse wasn’t the best team in 2003 any more than Kentucky was in 1998 (although they were all very good teams). It’s how our system works.

    There’s nothing wrong with that — the 16-0 Patriots were the best team in the NFL in 2007, but it was the 10-6 Giants who were the better team on SB Sunday and ended up with the trophy.

  11. Anderson says:

    Pretty sure the Big Ten arenas are just as big/rowdy as the SEC’s.

  12. T Whit says:

    The only team that can be considered the best of the year by a landslide no questions asked are UK in 96, UNC 2005. Nobody was touching those teams those year.

  13. rtmsf says:

    Duke 92 and UConn 99 should also be on that list. Both two-loss teams. UNC 2005 lost four games so I don’t know about landslide. Illinois was #1 for most of that year. I’d agree it was two-horse race in 2005, though.

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