College basketball season is just around the corner. Division I men’s teams are practicing, playing in exhibition games, and even getting ranked, with the preseason polls coming out recently. Those polls give fans a sneak peek at which programs are expected to be among the top in the country for the 2014-2015 campaign, and also which conferences are loaded with the most Top 25 teams. In comparing the preseason AP poll and the coaches’ poll, there seems to be a consensus among at least the top 24 teams in the nation (although the order is obviously not identical). In that group, five leagues can each boast more than one school represented.
Here are our rankings of the five best college basketball leagues in the country, based on the information in the preseason polls. Who’s too high? Who’s too low?
5. The American
The American Athletic Conference has two teams among the Top 25 in both polls, UConn and SMU. Of course, the American also boasts the defending national champion in the UConn Huskies, so that has to count for something. Connecticut is ranked 15th in the coaches’ poll and 17th in the AP, while Larry Brown (pictured) and his Mustangs are No. 22 after barely missing out on a March Madness invite a season ago.
4. The SEC
Like the American, the SEC also only has two teams ranked right now, but both are legitimate threats to win it all in April. 2006 and 2007 champ Billy Donovan (pictured) and Florida are No. 7 in the country in both sets of rankings after earning a top seed in 2014, while 2012 title winner John Calipari and Kentucky enjoy the No. 1 overall ranking as the season gets ready to tip off.
3. The Big 12
The Big 12 Conference has a quartet of teams among the nation’s elite, headlined by No. 5 Kansas. Bill Self (pictured) lost two star freshmen from last year’s team that both became top-three NBA draft picks, but the Jayhawks should be in championship contention once again this season. Kansas is joined by No. 10 Texas, No. 14 Iowa State, and No. 19 Oklahoma in the preseason rankings.
2. The Big Ten
The Big Ten has five teams in both sets of rankings, with a sixth (Iowa) sneaking into the 25th spot of the coaches’ poll. However, most of them occupy the bottom third of the Top 25: Only Wisconsin (No. 3 AP/No. 4 coaches) appears higher than 18th in the country. The Big Ten may be the nation’s deepest league, though, with No. 18 Michigan State, No. 20 Ohio State, No. 21 Nebraska, and No. 23/24 Michigan sure to be factors in the league race.
1. The ACC
The Atlantic Coast Conference appears to be the best in the country this season, especially with 2013 champion Louisville joining the league for the first time. It seems that what the SEC West is to football, the ACC might be to basketball, with four programs beginning the year ranked in the top 10. Duke (No. 3/No. 4) starts out with the highest ranking, followed closely by North Carolina, the aforementioned Cardinals and Rick Pitino (pictured), and Virginia (at 6, 8, and 9, in the AP poll, respectively). Throw in Syracuse (No. 23/No. 24), and it’s clear that the ACC will be exceptionally tough in 2014-2015.