Sunday, March 23, 2014

Conference hierarchy, one more look

Remember the preseason when I posted my conference hierarchy?  Let me post my preseason rankings, and see how I did.

Tier 1:  Royalty
1) Big 10
2) ACC

The B1G ended up 2, but the ACC was 5th.  ACC had plenty of power at the top, and 9 of 15 teams were in the top 100.  The issue was that BC and VT bottomed out below 200.  Once again, the bottom hurts the rest of the conference.

Tier 2:  Power conferences
3) Pac-12
4) SEC
5) Big East
6) Big 12

Well, I missed on the Big 12.  #1 overall.  Only 10 teams large, everyone but TCU would up in the top 125, which is the recipe.  Nailed the Pac-12, and the BE finished 4th.  So that leaves the SEC, which finished 7th.  And not just 7th, but 7th by a lot.  There's a clear separation between the top 6 and the SEC.  They were a tier down from the other three conferences in this list.

Tier 3:  Purgatory, part 1
7) AAC

The AAC ended up 8th, about level with the SEC.  The bottom half was completely awful.

Tier 4:  Purgatory, part 2
8) MWC
9) A-10

The A-10 had a big season with 6 teams inside the RPI top 50.  Another 3 teams inside the top 100 was just as key, eliminating deadweight potential.  This got the A-10 to 6th overall.  The MWC, on the other hand, regressed badly to 10th.

Tier 5:  Don't call us mid-major
10) MVC
11) WCC

In a strange dynamic, the WCC beat the MWC, getting to 9th behind 4 top 70 teams.  They had better top-to-bottom depth than the MWC.  MVC had a really down year and still held 11th.  I think we can safely say that there is an 11-conference breakaway in college basketball when it comes to relevance.

I won't reprint the rest of the tiers, but things that stood out:
1) The MAC and CUSA were 12th and 13th, pretty clearly separating from the rest of the pack.  They're a tier of themselves now.
2) The next grouping of conferences:  Horizon, CAA, MAAC, Summit.  Summit was the outlier because NDSU overperformed.
3) Football money does not matter for the Sun Belt.  Finished 19th.
4) The WAC way overperformed in 21st place, because of New Mexico St.
5) I had the OVC 15th entering the year.  Finished 24th.  Oops.

So with all this in mind, here are my new tiers for future years:

Tier 1:  Big 10, ACC - not tempted enough to change this, yet
Tier 2:  Big 12, Pac-12, Big East, SEC - the order within this tier changes, but not the grouping
Tier 3:  A-10, MWC, AAC - this group is clearly below Tier 2.  AAC is about to get smacked with the realignment stick again, so they belong here
Tier 4:  WCC, MVC, CUSA - I'm going to give CUSA the bump up to this tier.  It's debatable.  I think we'll see a 12-conference breakaway now
Tier 5:  MAC, MAAC, Horizon, CAA - Conference numbers 13-16 here.  Just good enough to be ignored by the selection committee every year.
Tier 6:  Sun Belt, Summit, Ivy - Ivy is carving out a niche in the middle of the tiers here.  These are conferences #17-19.
Tier 7:  OVC, Patriot, Big West, A-Sun - Conferences #20-23.  These are the ones who can realistically hope to win a game in March every year, and who won't bottom out.  The common trait?  Top-tier teams who can remain constant threats (Murray St, Belmont, Boston, UCSB, LBSU, Mercer, FGCU).
Tier 8:  Big Sky, NEC, S'land, Big South, A-East, WAC, SoCon, MEAC - I see these guys being interchangeable going forward.

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