July 1st looks to have been the end of what felt like a never-ending cycle of major conference realignment. The most notable of teams that sold out on their conference of years was the Louisville Cardinals. The Big East split into two conferences, one being the Catholic XII, the other being the glorified Conference USA aka the American Athletic Conference. I’m not sure if the correct terminology now is the Power 5 conferences or the Power 7, but with the Big East being dismantled, the title of the strongest conference in basketball has been passed on to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Where the SEC in college football is the clear standout conference, since the turn of the millennium, the “top conference” in college basketball has been a toss up. The ACC was completely dominant from top to bottom, with all of these teams making it to at least the Sweet 16 from ’00-’07; Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, NC State, Maryland, Boston College, and Virginia Tech, but after the era of Duke’s JJ Redick and UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough the Big East sky-rocketed and became the elite conference in basketball. From ‘08-’14 the following teams made it to at least the Sweet 16 from the ’79-’13 Big East Conference; Syracuse, Louisville, Marquette, UConn, Georgetown, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Villanova, and Cincinnati. With the move from the Big East for the ACC from Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and now Louisville, it’s official; the ACC is the best conference in college basketball.
Since 2000, the score is ACC-5, Big East-4 in National Championships (not including UConn 2014 championship as part of the AAC). If you were to score National Championships, by what conference they are in currently then the score is ACC-6, Big East-0.
The Atlantic Coast Conference isn’t just going to prosper because of the demise of the Big East, as the ACC has also produced some of the most prominent NBA prospects in recent memory. Led by Jabari Parker the no. 2 overall pick in last week’s draft, the ACC was tied for the most 2014 NBA draftees with 9 players. The ACC leads the way with first-round draft picks in the last five years with 32 selections, and over the past nine years have developed 52 first round selections. With the NBA having 30 picks in each round over the past nine years, the ACC has accounted for 19% of all first round selections. This trend of dominance by the ACC isn’t just in the past with prior championships and recent draft selections, but will continue to thrive as the recruits keep piling in. In ESPN’s RecruitingNation 2014 Class Rankings, the ACC accounts for 6 of the top 25 teams and 12 of ESPN’s top 50 recruits.
The only conference to even remotely challenge the Atlantic Coast Conference for most dominant basketball conference would be the Big Ten. The Big Ten has seen some recent success when it comes to overall depth of their conference since this decade started, but with the soon-to-be drop off of Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, and Minnesota, it will be awhile before the ACC is dethroned by another conference. For all intensive purposes, we will see teams fearing any opponent hailing from the ACC for a long time to come.