CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander surveyed nearly 100 coaches for our annual Candid Coaches series. They recruited everyone from head coaches at elite programs to assistants at some of the smallest Division I schools. On condition of anonymity, the coaches gave unfiltered honesty about a number of topics. We will post the results of the quiz over the next few weeks.
The Big 12 has been ranked as the best basketball league in seven of the past nine seasons, according to KenPom.com — but that conference will soon change. Oklahoma and Texas remain in the SEC. Houston, Cincinnati, BYU and UCF are coming. From a football perspective, it’s not good considering Oklahoma and Texas are huge football brands. But with Houston, Cincinnati and BYU all strong hoops programs, it’s reasonable to argue that the Big 12’s basketball product will be superior.
But does the Big 12 remain, often, the best?
That’s arguable that a) a Big 12 loss would strengthen the SEC, and b) the Big Ten is adding UCLA and USC from the Pac-12 in August 2024. So with all of this in mind, we asked nearly 100 coaches the following question:
With Oklahoma and Texas headed to the SEC and UCLA and USC headed to the Big Ten, which conference do you think will be the best basketball league going forward?
1. Big Ten41%2. SEC28%3 BIG 1215% 4. ACC14%5. Big East 2%
on the big ten
“I’m in the Big East — and it’s not even close. The Big Ten is a monster from top to bottom.” “I don’t want to discount the Big 12 because it’s supposed to be a monster — but who? Hell knows who’s going to be in that league in two years? That’s why I say the Big Ten. It’s pretty consistent right now, and adding UCLA and USC to some extent can only help.
on the SEC
“The SEC, recruiting-wise, over the last five years, has been recruiting everybody in the country. Duke and UNC are getting their guys, but seven teams in the SEC got top four-stars and five-stars. The talent is ridiculous. In the league. In the SEC. A lot of NBA players every year “” with the NIL in terms of aggressiveness in recruiting, it’s the SEC. That, from natural athleticism, physically, top to bottom. Even team. Not as talented, watching them play, that was a different athlete, football-type athletes. That’s the difference they play basketball when they have it, there’s that difference and it’s tough, as a middle-of-the-road head coach, we play. It’s better with Big 12 teams than SEC teams because of the athletic differences.
“The last two Nat championships have come from the Big 12. If Texas Tech shuts out Virginia, they’ll have the last three – and they’re only losing two of the bottom-five teams.” Having a school like Houston helps make it a top 10 team every year. I think the league is just going to get better and better. There are no easy games in that league. Most of these teams are NIL-wise. It’s a tough league. Nothing is easy.
“I think the ACC will always be the best. From the fans to the administrators, it has a culture and passion for basketball. That league invests and knows that basketball is king. The ACC will focus more on basketball and continue to be successful — like the new Big East. That means…everyone.” Until they transition to the new SEC/Big Ten.
As Bruce Pearl said in a postgame interview last January, his school is an “everything school.” There’s no reason Auburn can’t be good at everything — football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, you name it. More broadly, that’s true now for the Big Ten and SEC because those conferences are adding huge brands that allow them to generate revenue that other leagues simply can’t generate.
This poll reflects that fact.
Sixty-nine percent of the coaches we polled said that in the future, either the Big Ten or the SEC — two conferences mostly known for high-quality football — will be the nation’s best basketball league. For what it’s worth, I agree. They’re both going to be so big and deep and strong and rich that they’ll usually have the best facilities, the best television coverage, the best coaches — and the most money to spend on name, image, and likeness. And what else to choose. Over time, the power of 5 becomes the power of 2. Although all of this is clearly and undeniably football-motivated — the Big Ten, for example, wanted USC football more than UCLA basketball — the result is a significant increase in brands that increase revenue (and reduce competition) for the Big Ten and the SEC. They grow in many ways, including ways to make their basketball products bigger and better than ever.
In professional sports, big market teams often enjoy success because they have more money than anyone else. In college sports, that is more true than ever. That’s not to say Big 12 programs like Kansas and Baylor or ACC programs like Duke and North Carolina won’t continue to grow in basketball, because they certainly will. But most college coaches believe there are more good and good programs in the Big Ten and SEC than anywhere else, and there’s really no rational reason to think their opinions are wrong or wrong on this topic.