Opinion: The Big 12 Reigns Supreme

Basketball season is finally back and with it comes the debate of which conference is the best? The majority of the talk surrounds two conferences; the Big 10 and the ACC. Rarely is the Big 12 in that conversation, but as the first two weeks of regular season play comes to an end, the Big 12 is looking like the dominant conference, while both the Big 10 and ACC have both squandered.

After watching for over a hundred hours of games already this season (not an exaggeration), I have been able to look at most of these the teams in these three conferences. There are two ways to look at my stance; why the Big 12 is the best, and why the Big 10 and ACC is not.


Why the Big 12 is the best conference

Overall record

The Big 12 has started the season 25-2, which is about a 93 percent win percentage, compared to the ACC’s 95-6 which is 94 percent and the Big 10’s 38-8 which is about 83 percent. The ACC does have a better win percentage, but when you look into the level of play, the Big 12 stands out. The Big 12 has won twice against teams in the top 25, with both wins coming against teams ranked five or higher. The Big Ten has just one win against ranked opponents, despite playing in six of those game this season.

Returning players

In an era where fans are constantly seeing players dominate the league as freshmen and leave for the draft the next year, it can be hard to find a good team in a power five conference that is carried by upperclassmen. The Big 12 may be the exception to this trend as seven teams in the conference have over eight juniors or seniors. Of course every team wants a Ben Simmons or a Miles Bridges, but what a senior lacks in talent, they can make up for in experience.

The two teams I want to highlight in this section are Kansas and Texas Tech. Kansas is a top ten team that knocked off then No. 1 ranked Duke. The Jayhawks have nine upperclassmen, with senior Frank Mason III and junior Devonte’ Graham leading the team in points per game. This team is built on consistency and experience, and it has proven effective by winning a Big 12 title every year since 2008. Coach Bill Self has done a great job keeping his players around to stay a top of the NCAA.

Texas Tech has been on an uphill trend and made their first NCAA tournament appearance in nine years last year. That team was carried by three senior and two junior starters. This year, they returned all eligible players except one freshmen who transferred. Look out for the Red Raiders to be a Big 12 title contender at the end of the season.

Early key matchups

How a team starts out can help determine what a team shapes out to be by providing them with momentum, insight on what works and what doesn’t, what type of pacing they want to play, etc. What a team does early, while not always the case, can show what a team will do later in the season. Such as the 2013-14 Nebraska team, who started 8-8, losing to teams such as UAB and Massachusetts, but turned the season around in the second half of the season finishing 19-13, and making the NCAA tournament.

One of the first upsets of the season was unranked Baylor beating No. 4 Oregon of the Pac 12. This game was dominated by Baylor and ended up winning by 15. The other two games are both from Kansas. The first was an overtime loss to Indiana, which some may say goes against my argument, but it really doesn’t. Indiana is an elite team this year, and is arguably the best team in the Big 10. A loss to the Hoosiers is not something to be ashamed of, especially if it is a close game. Those who were watching the game know that the it was close the entire time. The game came down to the final minute of overtime, and could have gone either way. The other Kansas matchup was against No.1 Duke, which again came down to the wire, and Kansas was able to squeak out a two-point win. This isn’t a bad loss for Duke, as the Blue Devils still have time to bounce back, but it is a great win for Kansas.


Why the Big 10 and ACC are not the best conference

In-conference competition

The Big 12 may have the best in conference play. Even Kansas State and TCU should be able to pull out some home wins against top teams. TCU is returning senior Brandon Parrish, who is working with freshman Desmond Bane. Kansas State is returning senior forward Wesley Iwundu, who can not only compete against anybody down low, but also has the ability to hit the three point shot.

The same cannot be said for the ACC and the Big 10. Starting with the ACC, there is a lot of talented ball clubs here, there is no way to deny that. However, there are more than a few easy wins here. Boston College didn’t win a conference game last year. Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Florida State should not pose any threat to the top half of the conference. Georgia Tech is going to have to find a way around leading scorer Tadric Jackson’s injury. Wake Forest is depending on a young team with just one senior and four juniors. Pittsburgh has already begun struggling, losing to a weaker SMU team, and winning in double overtime over Eastern Michigan. Florida State is going to be a hit or miss team. The Seminoles have an outstanding freshman, Jonathan Isaac, but they haven’t been tested yet this season. I look forward to seeing how they match up against Temple, but again I think they are too young of a team.

These teams may create a scare for an opponent on the road, and an upset or two may happen, but for the most part these teams will anchor the conference. The Big 10 is more competitive from the bottom, but still has easy wins. Rutgers is the Big 10’s Boston College, and will struggle once again in the basement. In addition, Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State and Illinois, although could pose a challenge at home, won’t be too difficult to handle when they are on the road.

Leaving players

The ACC and the Big 10 lost a lot of fantastic players, and they need replacing. Most of these positions are being filled by freshmen and sophomores, who are relatively inexperienced in college play. Some notable departures are; Brandon Ingram (Duke), Marcus Paige (UNC), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Malachi Richardson (Syracuse), Denzel Valentine (MSU), A.J. Hammons (Purdue), Caris Levert (Michigan) and Jake Layman (Maryland). All of which were drafted to the NBA. In total, the ACC lost nine players last year to the draft, and the Big 10 lost six. Comparing that to the Big 12 who also lost six, but as stated earlier, has more experienced players to replace them.

Key match ups

Here are some of the most notable games I saw, that made me start doubting these two conferences. The Pittsburgh game against SMU was a bad showing for the ACC, with Pitt allowing 76 points, on a weaker offensive team. Two games I won’t elaborate on are two ACC losses, where Boston College fell to Nicholls State of the Southland Conference, and when Georgia Tech lost to Ohio of the MAC. On the Big 10 side, the Michigan State loss to Kentucky caught my attention. When MSU lost to Arizona, that was not a bad loss, but to lose by 21 points, that is cause for concern. That same night, Wisconsin, who was picked to win the Big 10 by many journalists, fell to Creighton. Creighton isn’t a bad team, but to lose by 12 points isn’t a good look for a Big 10 favorite.

When the NCAA tournament rolls around, the ACC and Big 10 may have more teams make it in, but watch out for the Big 12 because they may create some bracket busters.