Google ‘college basketball best conference’ and the first conference related story that pops up is exploring whether the SEC is college basketball’s best conference. Seriously? Okay, it’s a story from Rivals, but still. Click on the ‘news’ tab to get more relevant articles and the Big Ten starts showing up. And that’s good, because the Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball and it’s not that close. But mine a little deeper and it’s taken for granted that the Big East is the 2nd best conference. Yesterday the ESPN roundtable made just that assumption, and no one – not even John Gasaway – questioned it. But the bottom end of the Big East is really bad this year. Five teams are ranked higher than 100 in the Pomeroys. Only one Big 12 team – Texas Tech – lives in the same depths. And there’s no real separation at the top end either. Four Big 12 teams are in Pomeroy’s top-20, along with five Big East teams. For the Big 12, that’s 33% of their conference. For the Big East it’s 31%.
But I’m not here to argue Big 12 vs Big East. I’m here to point out reasons to give the Big 12 some love.
They run the floor. Three Big 12 teams that average more than 70 possessions a game. No other major conference has more than 2. Big 12 games get up and down the floor, which makes them entertaining. Only two teams (Texas and Texas A&M) are below the national average in tempo.
They take care of business. The Big 12 only has four losses to teams ranked 100th or higher. And three of those came from one team (Texas Tech). The Big Ten has 6. The Big East and SEC have 11. The ACC has 12. The Pac 12 has 21.
They take care of the ball. Missouri’s turnover rate is 13.6%, which leads the nation. Okay, Missouri takes care of the ball. And that Tyrus McGee guy from Iowa State.
They take care of the kitchen. You like blocked shots? Watch Big 12 games, at least the out of confence games. Three of the top-10 players nationally in Block% come from the Big 12. The rest of the high majors combine for one. Meanwhile three Big 12 teams rank in the country’s top-10 at not having their shots blocked.
They can shoot. Missouri’s eFG% leads the nation. They are 2nd in 2s (59.4%) and 17th in 3s (40.7%). Three of the top teams nationally in eFG% come from the Big 12 (Mizzou, Baylor and Iowa State), and no other conference has more than two. There are 26 teams shooting greater than 40% from deep, and the Big 12 has three of them (Oklahoma, Baylor and Mizzou). The Sun Belt is the only other conference with 3 teams shooting greater than 40%.
They can really shoot. Of the players that use at least 20% of their teams possessions, there are three that have an offensive rating greater than 140. And all three come from the Big 12. Oklahoma’s Steven Pledger has made 66% of his 2s, 49% of his 3s and 86% of his FTs. His eFG% ranks 3rd nationally, and just for kicks he’s in the top-300 in turnover rate and steal%. Missouri has the other two. Marcus Denmon has made 60% of his 2s, 46% of his 3s and 92% of his FTs. Denmon also turns the ball over less than every other player in the nation. The final player – Ricardo Ratliffe – has made a ridiculous 77% of his 2s. He’s also the 3rd best offensive rebounder in the conference.
They don’t like the other team to shoot. Seven on the teams are among the top-50 defenses, and no other conference can make that claim (half the Big East isn’t even in the top-100). Four are among the top-20 in defensive 2-pt%, and two are among the top-20 in defensive 3-pt%.
If you don’t believe me that the Big 12 is a really good conference, then start watching for yourself. Tonight Missouri takes on Illinois, Kansas plays at USC, and Baylor goes against St Mary’s.