As we enter the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, it is becoming abundantly clear that the ACC was vastly overrated and the Pac-12 was supremely underrated.
With the best 16 teams remaining, the pride of the East boasts just one ACC team. Meanwhile, the Pac-12’s top three teams are still alive and the conference possesses the best overall record in the tournament thus far.
Last week, I wrote an article about the Pac-12 Conference deserving more respect entering the tournament. Not only did I predict the Pac-12 would succeed, but I prognosticated they would have the most total wins by any conference in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. So far, so good.
The Pac-12 has been overlooked for a long time, going on years. Yet, this season the section committee and fans outside the west alike were wrong, plain and simple.
Let’s take a look at these power conferences through one week of the tournament:
1. Pac-12 (8-1, .888 WP)
The best conference in college basketball is not the ACC, at least not this season. Bias sways decision, and none more severe than nine teams from the mediocre conference entering the elite tournament. Currently, the Pac-12 owns a .888 win percentage through the first weekend, winning eight of nine contests. Additionally, the conference is averaging 2.0 wins per team in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
No. 11 USC made huge strides for an underrated team, even by Pac-12 standards. Not many believed the Trojans were over-seeded, yet I felt it was an injustice for them to play another under-seeded No. 11 Providence team in the First Four match-up. Not only did USC win that contest, but they upset the trendy sweetheart pick No. 6 seed SMU two days later. The entire nation took notice.
Not much needs to be said about No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Oregon and UCLA. At least, not much needs to be said to those who have been following them this year. It’s not hard to realize how talented and deep these teams are, yet why did the committee struggle to seed them?
I have been seeking a better conference in 2017, but have been unable to locate them. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you the entire time.
For the first time in the Conference’s 101-year history, three teams reached at least 30 overall wins. It’s only the second time in league history with four 25-win teams in a single season. If these were ACC teams, they would’ve been ranked No. 1-3 in the nation. Instead, not one Pac-12 team was rewarded with a No. 1 seed in 2016-17.
2. SEC (7-2, .777 WP)
If you told me the SEC would be the second-best conference thus far in the tournament, I would’ve told you that football season just ended. I am blown away by the dominance illustrated by the southern elite, yet when you watch them play, you see why they are so good.
The SEC lives and breathes on playing defense. No matter the sport, the conference wants to wear down all those who cross their path. The three teams that represent this conference exemplify this to the highest order.
No. 2 Kentucky was no surprise, No. 4 Florida regained their early-season momentum after injury and No. 7 South Carolina shocked the world when they blew past No. 2 Duke, 88-81.
Honestly, the team that played the best of all these SEC teams over the weekend may have been Arkansas. The Razorbacks lost to No. 1 North Carolina in a thriller. Arkansas was in control for most of the second half. Teams that play defense with explosive athletes can grind out offense against teams that don’t know them. This was never more evident than the SEC vs ACC showdowns on Sunday.
3. Big 12 (8-3, .727 WP)
The Big 12 is always tough on opponents, but they usually find a way to lose before the National Championship. No. 1 Kansas has always been the top dog in conference play, but this year they have been joined in postseason winning by No. 3 Baylor and No. 4 West Virginia.
Possessing the Player of the Year candidate in Frank Mason, alongside the Freshman of the Year front-runner in Josh Jackson, the Jayhawks are primed to make another long run. They will face a stiff test against a big Purdue team that is heavily unheralded. Purdue boats their own Player of the Year candidate, Caleb Swanigan, and top-notch 3-point shooting.
Baylor and West Virginia have both improved greatly this season. The Bears were able to escape USC in the Round of 32. Meanwhile, Bob Huggins and company were able to roll through the ACC’s No. 5 seed Notre Dame. The top three teams in the Big 12 have been solid all season and seem to be finding their rhythm at the perfect time.
4. B1G 10 (8-4, .666 WP)
Growing up in the midwest, this may have been the worst regular season I have witnessed from the conference. Living in the PNW now, maybe I was distracted from the greatness that is the Pac-12 because the B1G 10 is legit.
Nobody saw No. 8 Wisconsin upsetting the No. 1 overall seed and the reigning champions, Villanova. Yet, even less predicted No. 7 Michigan to escape both No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Louisville. And, a great deal of “experts” had No. 4 Purdue as their trendy upset special entering the first weekend of March Madness.
Needless to say, even No. 8 Northwestern gave overrated No. 1 Gonzaga a run for their money. Michigan State was terrible this year, but of course Tom Izzo had them ready to play No. 8 Miami for the first round slight-upset.
The B1G 10 may not blow you away with athleticism, but they will fight you until the end. They may even walk away with the victory after you outplayed them. They don’t care how it looks, as long as it gets done.
5. ACC (7-8, .466 WP)
We had to save the best for last, right? Trying not to smile as I write this, the ACC is the worst of the five power conferences in 2016-17. The nation was clamoring for more than the nine teams that were rewarded with a ticket to the 2017 NCAA Tournament. I hope they packed light, as only one remains entering the second weekend.
No. 1 seed North Carolina was the toast of the conference all year. Experts across the country were predicting UNC to win it all since mid-summer. Entering the ACC Tournament, everyone was still on the bandwagon. Yet, a disastrous loss to Duke in the semifinal of the tournament placed fear in the hearts of many ACC supporters.
The Tar Heels should’ve lost to Arkansas over the weekend, and what a beautiful world it would have been with 0 ACC teams left in the tournament? During a season that allotted nine spots to their mediocre teams, other conferences like the Pac-12 were just seeking a fifth team enter the madness. Yet, ONLY four from the Pac-12 were selected and everyone who stands in their way is paying for it. #BackThePac
Last season, six ACC teams entered the Sweet 16 and zero exited as champion. Currently, the Atlantic Coast Conference is averaging less than a win per team in the tournament. All of their eggs currently lie in the basket of North Carolina. Remember, their ceiling is the roof.
This scoreboard will be updated AFTER the weekend. We are a week closer to the final power conferences standings of the 2016-17 NCAA campaign.