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College basketball power rankings: Big 12 reigns, ACC struggles in final 2021-22 conference comparison

Unlike the 2020-21 season, when sane minds could argue over which conference ended the campaign as the best in college basketball, there should be little debate on the matter after the 2021-22 season. Not only did the Big 12 produce their second straight national champion in Kansas, but the league was consistently excellent throughout the season.

Aside from the No. 1 and the title-winning Jayhawks, the conference produced a second No. 1 at Baylor and saw Texas Tech and Iowa State both make the Sweet 16. While KU was the only Big 12 team to progress beyond the Sweet 16, the overall performance of the Big 12 at the NCAA tournament stood out, with each of the league’s six teams winning at least one game in the Big Dance.

Though the league had seven teams at the 2021 NCAA tournament, the Big 12 was arguably deeper in 2022 as last season’s bottom feeders rallied to create a top-to-bottom competitiveness that continued throughout the season made for a convincing theater. Unlike 2021, when Iowa State and Kansas State dragged down the league’s average NET rankings at 224 and 176, respectively, there were no serious laggards at the conference. All 10 teams in the conference finished in the NET’s top 75.

Elsewhere in the country, the Pac-12 suffered a serious relapse after coming onto the scene with a memorable 2021 NCAA tournament. While the ACC saved its reputation by fielding three of the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament, it was still a poor season by the standards of a historically proud basketball conference.

As we ponder the 201-22 college basketball season, here is the final breakdown of the Conference Power Rankings using the following criteria: average NET ranking of each team in a league, average NET ranking excluding bottom two teams, number of NCAA Tournaments Bids, NCAA Tournament Records and Number of Potential NBA Bids.

Draft prospects were pulled from the latest CBS Sports NBA Big Board, which features the top 75 prospects for the 2022 NBA draft. Here is last year’s final power ranking of the conference.

1. Big 12

Each of the 10 teams in the Big 12 was involved in NCAA tournament talk during at least portions of league play. Even Kansas State and West Virginia, each finishing under .500, demonstrated the ability to compete and beat high-profile opponents. Every night in the Big 12 was a struggle, and the fact that the conference’s six NCAA tournament teams all won at least one game in the Big Dance is a testament to how prepared they were after the conference gauntlet. With Kansas ultimately raising the national championship trophy, there is little doubt that the Big 12 will claim the title of the nation’s top conference for the second straight year.

BY NUMBERS

  • 2nd Place in NCAA Tournament Bid Percentage: 6 out of 10 (60%)
  • Second in NCAA Tournament Record: 13-5 (72.2%)
  • T-4 in the top 75 NBA draft prospects: 6 (0.6 per team)
  • 1st in average NET ranking: 33.2 (66.7 last year)
  • 1st in the average NET ranking excluding the bottom two teams: 23.8 (33.4 last year)

2. Big Ten

The Big Ten slipped somewhat from the pace they set in the 2020-21 season as four teams finished in the top 10 in the most recent AP poll. Only one team — Purdue — finished this season in that area, and the Boilermakers were No. 10. Only two of the league’s nine NCAA tournament teams made the Sweet 16, and both were eliminated that round as the drought spread to the national Big Ten titles extended to 22 years. Ultimately, the league’s sheer volume of NCAA tournament teams and professional prospects help set it apart as college basketball’s second-best conference.

BY NUMBERS

  • 1st in NCAA Tournament Bid Percentage: 9 out of 14 (64.3%)
  • 6th in NCAA tournament record: 9-9 (50%)
  • 1st Place in Top 75 NBA Draft Prospects: 14 (1 per team)
  • 2nd in average NET ranking: 57.2 (46.4 last year)
  • 4th in the average NET rankings excluding the bottom two teams: 45.6 (35.4 last year)

3rd SEC

After Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee were each eliminated with double-digit seed numbers during the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, the SEC once again needed Arkansas to save face. The Razorbacks were the only SEC team to make the Sweet 16 as they made the Elite Eight for the second straight year. It wasn’t a stellar year for the conference by any means, but the loyal and high-profile SEC in the regular season gives it a slight edge over the ACC and Big East in the final rankings.

BY NUMBERS

  • 4th Place NCAA Tournament Bid Percentage: 6 out of 14 (42.9%)
  • 7th in NCAA tournament record: 5-6 (45.5%)
  • Second in Top 75 NBA Draft Prospects: 11 (0.79 per team)
  • 2nd in average NET ranking: 64.1 (64.6 last year)
  • 2nd in the average NET ranking excluding the bottom two teams: 43.7 (51.3 last year)

4. Great East

The Big East climbed two places in this year’s standings after making six teams dance and seeing Villanova reach the Final Four. The ineptness of the bottom of the league – we’re talking about Georgetown – was a problem, but the upper echelons of the Big East offered quality and fun basketball all season long. Providence’s emergence as an international and Marquette’s return to prominence in Shaka Smart’s first season as coach helped the Big East have a good season.

BY NUMBERS

  • Third in NCAA Tournament Bid Percentage: 6 out of 11 (54.5%)
  • 5th in NCAA tournament record: 7-6 (53.8%)
  • 6th place among the top 75 NBA draft prospects: 3 (0.27 per team)
  • 4th in average NET ranking: 64.7 (72.9 last year)
  • 4th in the average NET rankings excluding the bottom two teams: 44.6 (56.8 last year)

5.ACC

The ACC’s stellar performance at the NCAA tournament, highlighted by a historic Final Four showdown between Duke and North Carolina, gave them reason to rank above No. 5 this season. But in the end, a tough regular season was too much for the conference to handle. After the ACC sent nine teams to the Big Dance in 2017 and 2018, the ACC produced just seven in 2019 and 2021. That number had dropped to five this year, as Duke spent much of the season as the league’s only ranked team.

BY NUMBERS

  • 5th in NCAA Tournament Bid Percentage: 5 out of 15 (33.3%)
  • 1st in NCAA tournament record: 14-5 (73.7%)
  • T-4 in the top 75 NBA draft prospects: 9 (0.6 per team)
  • 5th in average NET ranking: 85.1 (78.0 last year)
  • 6th in the average NET rankings excluding the bottom two teams: 71.3 (60.8 last year)

6. Pac-12

At a time when many programs across the country were bringing back oodles of veteran talent due to the extra playing time granted by the NCAA during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pac-12 had a surprising number of talent replacements this season. Every team in the conference except UCLA lost their top scorer, and that exodus of production was evident when the league failed to build on its exceptional performance in the 2021 NCAA tournament. Of the three teams that made this year’s Big Dance, No. 1 Arizona and No. 4 UCLA were dismissed in the Sweet 16 and No. 7 USC lost in the first round. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s been a top-heavy and disappointing season for the Pac-12.

BY NUMBERS

  • 6th in NCAA Tournament Bid Percentage: 3 out of 12 (25.0%)
  • Fourth in NCAA tournament record: 4-3 (57.1%)
  • 3rd Place in Top 75 NBA Draft Prospects: 8 (0.67 per team)
  • 6th in average NET ranking: 93.0 (52.9 last year)
  • 5th in the average NET rankings excluding the bottom two teams: 71.1 (44.1 last year)

7. Assisted Communications

Houston continued to carry the AAC banner as the Cougars advanced to the Elite Eight after a Final Four run in 2021. NCAA tournament success for coach Kelvin Sampson’s team came after they won AAC regular-season and conference tournament titles. The AAC saw a slight improvement in their NET average ranking and had a second team, Memphis, an NCAA tournament win. Overall, however, the league continues to fall short of expectations when UConn and Louisville were among the founding members of the 2013-14 season.

BY NUMBERS

  • 7th in NCAA Tournament Bid Percentage: 2 out of 11 (18.2%)
  • Third in NCAA tournament record: 4-2 (66.7%)
  • 7th in Top 75 NBA Draft Prospects: 3 (0.18 per team)
  • 7th in average NET ranking: 107.4 (110.3 last year)
  • 7th in the average NET rankings excluding the bottom two teams: 83.7 (93.1 last year)

https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/college-basketball-power-rankings-big-12-reigns-supreme-acc-struggles-in-final-2021-22-conference-comparison/ College basketball power rankings: Big 12 reigns, ACC struggles in final 2021-22 conference comparison

Justin Scacco

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