Ranking the conferences: From 1 to 32

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
6:30
PM ET
Now that we are into December, it's time for ESPN Stats & Information to take a look at where all 32 Division I college basketball conferences stand.

The rating system we use is a two-step process. First, we find the average of each school in four well-known computer ranking systems: Massey, Pomeroy, Sagarin (ELO), and the RPI. We then add up these averages for each conference and divide by the number of schools each has.

Massey and Pomeroy are scoring margin-based systems while Sagarin and the RPI are win/loss-based. This helps diversify the rankings. All four rating systems are equally weighted.

This number gives us a good top-to-bottom evaluation for each conference. However, we want to give extra credit to leagues that have elite schools at the top. To accomplish this, we introduce the AP and coaches' polls to the formula. This also gives the formula the added benefit of using actual people who watch the games, as opposed to computers that are completely number-based.

To add the human element, we give each conference 25 points for a first-place school in either poll, 24 points for a second-place school, and so on. We then find the percentage of possible points each conference received and reduce the league's computer average by that percentage.

For example, this week the average Big Ten school has a 55.1 ranking in the four computer ratings. Big Ten schools also collected 20.8 percent of the possible human points available. Thus, to find the Big Ten's final rating we reduce its computer rating of 55.1 by 20.8 percent to get the 43.7 seen above.

Conferences that have schools in the top 25 of either human poll will see their rating improve while conferences that do not will see no effect to their initial computer ranking.

This week the Big Ten and Big East are neck-and-neck for the No. 1 spot. Connecticut’s surprise top-10 ranking in each of the human polls has brought the Big East within decimal points of the Big Ten.

The Mountain West opens up ahead of its West Coast sibling, the Pac-10. The MWC has three schools -- San Diego State, BYU, and UNLV -- ranked in both human polls, as well as in the top 15 of computer averages.

Albert Larcada is an Analytics Specialist in ESPN's Stats & Information group. Among other analytics projects, he maintains, advances and writes about ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) algorithm.

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