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Thursday, January 3, 2013
Big Ten tops all conferences

By Dick Vitale

Now that the nonconference schedule is just about over, it is time to look at the best conferences so far this season.

I don't think there is any doubt that the Big Ten ranks No. 1 so far. Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State have all been solid. Minnesota and Illinois have been surprise teams, showing how deep this league is. I haven't even touched on Michigan State or Wisconsin yet.

The Big East is enjoying its last hurrah. Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown, Cincinnati and Notre Dame have been highly ranked for most of the season. It is sad that this conference is breaking up. There is a lot of quality this season.

Next up, the VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) is leaning to the ACC. Duke has been the crème de la crème nationally, beating Ohio State, Minnesota, Louisville and Kentucky so far. NC State has a lot of potential, and North Carolina showed signs of positive things by beating UNLV recently. When the Tar Heels get it together on defense, watch out.

It gets tougher after the top three leagues. I will go with the Big 12 fourth, as Kansas has been dominant. It hasn't helped that Missouri said bye-bye, and West Virginia has been inconsistent. I think Baylor can be a tough team, and Kansas State and Oklahoma Stat have been pleasant surprises. Texas will get better and better despite its youth.

I feel the Atlantic 10 is No. 5 so far. Butler and VCU strengthened the conference, and Saint Louis sent a message with a recent win over New Mexico. The return of Kwamain Mitchell from injury is a major plus for the Billikens. Let's also remember that Temple got a win over Syracuse.

Next up is the Pac-12 as Arizona has been sensational. UCLA is playing better basketball as Shabazz Muhammad has been a top-flight diaper dandy. By the end of the season, the Bruins will be a tough opponent.

Rounding out my super seven conferences is the SEC, and I know some may be surprised by that. The league has produced very few big victories. Missouri knocked off Illinois; Tennessee beat a then-ranked Wichita State squad; Florida beat Wisconsin when the Badgers were in the poll.

If you glance at the SEC results against ranked foes, all I can say is OUCH! Kentucky lost to Duke and Louisville, but the Cats will improve as the season progresses.

Missouri lost to Louisville; Florida fell against Arizona; Tennessee lost to Georgetown; Arkansas was beaten by Michigan and Syracuse; Alabama lost to Cincinnati; Georgia was beaten by Indiana and UCLA; Mississippi State fell against North Carolina. I did not include losses against teams that were unranked at game time but are in the poll now, such as Notre Dame (beat Kentucky) and Oklahoma State (beat Tennessee), for example.

Unfortunately, there are other results that also leave SEC fans disappointed. Alabama lost to Mercer and Tulane; Arkansas lost to Arizona State; Georgia lost to Youngstown State; LSU lost to Boise State; Mississippi fell to Middle Tennessee; Mississippi State lost to Alabama A&M, Troy and Loyola (Illinois); South Carolina lost to Elon; Texas A&M lost to Southern; Vanderbilt lost to Marist and Middle Tennessee.

Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State have losing overall records.

I still feel that Kentucky, Florida and Missouri will be top-flight teams when it is all said and done. For now, the SEC has been a disappointment overall.

Conference play will give a good indication of the teams that will be the front-runners come tournament time.