Candidate coaches: Which conference will be the top college basketball league after realignment?

CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander interviewed approximately 100 coaches for our annual Candid Coaches series. They interviewed everyone from head coaches at elite programs to assistants at some of the smaller Division I schools. In exchange for complete anonymity, the coaches provided unfiltered honesty on a number of topics. Over the next few weeks, we will publish the results of the questions asked.

The Big 12 has, according to, been ranked the best league in basketball for seven of the past nine seasons — but, soon enough, the conference will change. Oklahoma and Texas will go to the SEC. Houston, Cincinnati, BYU and UCF are coming. From a football perspective, that’s obviously not good given that Oklahoma and Texas are huge football brands. But it’s safe to say that the Big 12 basketball product will remain elite given that Houston, Cincinnati and BYU are all strong hoops programs.

But will the Big 12 remain, more often than not, the better?

That’s debatable given that A) the Big 12’s losses will bolster the SEC, and B) the Big Ten add UCLA and USC from the Pac-12 in August 2024. So with all that in mind, we asked about 100 coaches the following question:

With Oklahoma and Texas heading to the SEC, and UCLA and USC heading to the Big Ten, which conference do you think will be the best basketball league in the future?

1. The Big Ten 41%
2 SEC 28%
3. Big 12 15%
4.VAC 14%
5. Great East 2%

Quotes that stood out

On the Big Ten

  • “I’m in Big East country – and it’s not even close. The Big Ten is a monster from top to bottom.”
  • “I don’t want to overlook the Big 12 because they should be a monster – but who knows who will be in this league in two years? Because of that, I’ll say the Big Ten. It’s the most consistent right now, and the addition of UCLA and, to some extent, USC can only help.”

On the SEC

  • “The SEC, when it comes to recruiting over the last five years, recruits everyone in the country. Duke and UNC recruit their guys, but there are seven teams in the SEC that get four stars and five stars. Talent is ridiculous in the league. Lots of NBA players in the SEC every year”
  • “It’s the SEC fair in terms of being aggressive in recruiting with NIL. That, combined with the already natural athleticism, physically, from top to bottom. Even a team that’s not as skilled, watching them play , it was a different type of athlete. When they have football-type athletes who play basketball, it makes a difference. That gap is there and it’s really difficult. As a mid-major coach, we play better against Big 12 teams than SEC teams just because of the athletic gap.”

On the Big 12

  • “The last two champions came from the Big 12. If Texas Tech closes Virginia, they would have the last three – and they would probably only lose two of the last five teams.”
  • “By any measure that lasts (a few) years, the BIG 12 has been the best league (most seasons). Winning schools like Houston, which will be a top 10 team every year, will help. I just think that the league is going to keep getting better and better. There are no easy games in this league. Most of these teams are all built from scratch. It’s just the hardest league. Nothing is not easy.”

On the ACC

  • “I think the ACC will always be the best. It has a tradition and a love for basketball, from fans to administrators. This league invests and knows that basketball is king.”
  • “Even with the amount of money going to the SEC and the Big Ten, I think the ACC will focus more on basketball and continue to be successful – much like the new Big East. That’s…until until they all move to the new SEC./Big Ten.”

The take-out sale

Bruce Pearl said in a post-game interview last January that his school was a “comprehensive school”. in the sense that there’s no reason Auburn shouldn’t be good at everything – football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, etc. Generally speaking, this is also true for the Big Ten and the SEC in general, as these conferences add gigantic marks that will allow them to create the kind of revenue that other leagues simply cannot create.

This survey reflects this reality.

Sixty-nine percent of the coaches we surveyed said that in the future, either the Big Ten or the SEC — two conferences primarily known for their high-quality football — will become the top basketball league in the nation. . For what it’s worth, I agree. They’re both going to be so big, deep, strong and rich that they’ll largely have the best facilities, the best TV exposure, a lot of the best coaches – and the most money to spend on name, image and likeness and whatever they choose. In time, the Power 5 will become a Power 2. And while all of this was obviously and undeniably football-driven – the Big Ten, for example, wanted USC football far more than they wanted UCLA basketball – the byproduct of adding major brands that increase revenue (and decrease competition) will elevate the Big Ten and the SEC in a myriad of ways, including ways that make their basketball products, all in all, bigger and better than ever.

In professional sports, big market teams are often successful in part because they have more money than everyone else. In college sports, that’s about to be as true as ever. That doesn’t mean Big 12 programs like Kansas and Baylor, or ACC programs like Duke and North Carolina, won’t continue to thrive in basketball, because they almost certainly will. But the majority of college coaches think there will soon be more good and great programs in the Big Ten and SEC than there will be anywhere else, and there’s really no logical reason to think that their thoughts on this subject are wrong or misplaced.

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