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Rating the conferences: From 1 to 32

1/24/2011

Here are this week’s ESPN Stats & Information conference ratings. For a recap of how we rank the conferences, check here and here.

A week after taking over the lead from the Big East in the computer rankings, but falling short of the top ranking because of the human bonus, the Big Ten completes its rise to No. 1 overall this week. This seems to be counterintuitive because the Big East won its only high-profile nonconference game this week (UConn’s win over Tennessee on Saturday) and Michigan State took one of the bigger tumbles in the ESPN/USA Today poll this week, going from 18th to completely out of the poll. This leaves just five Big Ten teams in that poll, compared to seven ranked teams for the Big East.

So then how could the Big Ten possibly move past the Big East? The difference doesn’t as much lie in those top teams that are ranked as much as the bottom teams in each conference. While the Big East has six teams with a computer average of 20 or better (compared to just three such teams for the Big Ten), the 16-team conference also has five teams with a computer average of 90 or worse (compared to just two such teams for the 11-team Big Ten).

The Big East blows out the Big Ten if you take the average computer ratings of the top two, three, four, or any number all the way up to 11 teams in each conference. The problem for the Big East is that it has more than 11 teams, and it’s conference rating is being dragged down considerably by the bottom five (which have a computer average of 128.4).

DePaul -- which has a computer average of 214.5, third-worst among all major-conference teams -- is the biggest culprit, as the Big East would be comfortably No. 1 if just the Blue Demons were excluded from the conference’s rating. This is an example of how the “Big” in Big East may not always be a good thing for the conference in these types of evaluations.

The only other movement in this week’s top 10 is another flip-flop at the eight and nine spots, with Conference USA moving just past the Atlantic 10 a week after the A-10 had grabbed the advantage. Going forward, keep an eye on the SEC, which had the biggest improvement in rating among the "Big Six" conferences, partially thanks to Vanderbilt and Florida entering the top 25 of both polls.

While the only big nonconference matchup this week is Duke’s trip to St. John’s on Sunday, the ratings are tight enough between a couple leagues that poll movement might be enough to shake up the top spots next week as it did this week.

Without further ado, here are this week’s ratings: