How the Big Ten stacks up

Indiana, led by guard Victor Oladipo, is just one of a handful of Big Ten teams with national title hopes. AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

One thing that's been missing from this season is a debate over which conference is the strongest. The reason is obvious: There really isn't much of a debate at all. Whether your choice of metrics is the number of teams ranked in the AP poll (the Big Ten leads all conferences with five in the top 20), more antiquated methods (five teams in the top 22 of the RPI), or more sophisticated methods (six teams in the top 13 of my ratings and five of the top 14 in the BPI), there's a consensus that the Big Ten is strong. Even if you prefer to look at the strength of competition from top to bottom, the Big Ten is the undisputed winner.

It's gotten to the point that I truly feel sorry for teams in the middle of the conference. Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa have amassed 20 conference losses between them and are much better than their records indicate. If these teams played in the Mountain West or the ACC, chances are they'd have fewer losses and a little more respect nationally.

Even in this season when the commonly held opinion is that there are no historically great teams, it's interesting to ponder where the top of the Big Ten ranks among the great conferences since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams, and what that might mean for the prospects of its teams in the postseason. As it turns out, there isn't an obvious "greatest conference of all time." This season's Big Ten ranks way up there, but depending on how you judge conference strength, there are a few candidates in recent seasons that are comparable to this season's Big Ten.