Big 12 is nation's best conference

The Big 12 conference has grown into far more than just "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk." John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports

At the outset of the season, it was almost a forgone conclusion. The ACC -- after adding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame -- would regain the mantle as the elite college basketball conference in America.

Just a few issues: The Irish have been thoroughly disappointing, the bottom third of the league has been dismal and North Carolina’s erratic play has had the Tar Heels as a fringe top-25 team for much of the season.

If not the ACC, there’s no debate, right? The Big Ten has made itself more than just a football conference lately, with Michigan’s resurgence -- along with the consistency of Ohio State and the fact bottom-feeders Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State have pulled off their share of quality victories.

While the Big Ten has had a quality season, with a legitimate chance to get seven of its dozen teams into the NCAA tournament when the field is unveiled in less than two weeks, there is another conference that stands above the rest in 2014.

The Big 12.