With Playoff berths and bowl games, March Madness appearances and trips to the NCAA Tournaments on the line, conversations always arise every season about which conferences are the most competitive in every sport. The SEC, Pac-12, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, and Big East in basketball battle for supremacy, so let’s rank them in the major sports – football, basketball, and baseball.
- Big 12
- Big 10
The top two in this list was pretty clear, as the Pac-12 and SEC have long been the most dominant conferences, combining for 30 College World Series titles between the two of them. The Pac-12 leads the way with 18 (titles won by an active Pac-12 member) although current members USC, Arizona State, Arizona, and Stanford have combined for 23 championships. After Spencer Torkelson was taken first overall this past year, the Sun Devils lead with four #1 overall picks in the MLB draft. The only major category the Pac-12 trails in is total CWS appearances, where they fall just short to the SEC (103-101).
The ACC comes in third, despite having just two College World Series titles as a conference. The ACC gets to Omaha frequently (96 total appearances), but they rarely bring it home as Florida State, Clemson, and North Carolina represent the top 3 programs with the most CWS appearances without a championship (46). Current member Miami has four championships, but only one as an active ACC member, and Virginia has the other ring. It was a battle between the Big 12 and Big 10 for the cellar, and it was the Big 10 taking last place with only 29 total appearances in Omaha, albeit six championships. Texas and Oklahoma State have combined for 32 first round draft picks, and no Big 10 school has more than 10.
- Big East
- Big 10
- Pac 12
- Big 12
The ACC was the clear choice for #1 here. They’ve won three of the past five national championships and are tied for the most with 15 overall. They have the most NCAA Tournament appearances with 398, the most first round draft picks with 202, and tied for the most #1 draft picks with 11. No contest
After that, it got a little dicey. I was leaning towards the SEC for second, but the Big East’s recent superiority tipped them over the edge. They have three championships since 2013, whereas the SEC hasn’t won one since 2012. It was close to a toss-up for their but I went with Big East at #2, and the SEC for #3.
After those initial three selections, the Big 10, with 11 #1 picks (T-1st), 132 1st round picks (132), and 10 national championships (4th) were the clear choice to slide into the fourth slot. They haven’t been very relevant, with only one title in the 21st century, but there’s lots of history and talent in this conference.
The Pac-12 and Big-12 were separated by a razor-thin margin and bring up the rear in the power conference rankings. The Pac-12 used to be one of the best, but they’ve faded from relevancy in recent years. Despite 15 national championships – tied for first with the ACC – the Pac-12 was largely fueled by UCLA’s dominance and their 23-year championship drought is the longest ongoing drought by any major conference. They slot in fifth, with the Big 12 bringing up the rear, running last with 50 first round draft picks, only one national championship, and next-to-last in NCAA tournament appearances.
- Big 10
- Big 12
I would say it was the dramatic unveiling of the best conference of the best college sport, but did anyone ever doubt who was finishing #1 here? Led by Alabama’s recent dynasty, the SEC have 25 national championships, including ten of the past fourteen. They’re second all-time in #1 picks and first-round picks, and top to bottom, they have more elite talent and depth than any other conference.
The Big 10 and ACC were a toss-up for second place. People love to mock the ACC, but they’re the only non-SEC conference to win national championships since 2005. They may not be loaded with talent top to bottom every year, but they’ve boasted some of the best teams of this past decade, and throw in Miami’s dynasty in the late 20th, early 21st century, and the ACC isn’t the laughingstock people make them out to be. However, the Big 10 does edge them out – they have 296 first round draft picks, which ranks first, eight #1 overall picks, and 22 national championships, marks that rank third and second respectively. Their biggest knock is a lack of recent national success – Ohio State has won two titles this century, but that’s it for the Big 10.
Bringing up the rear is the Pac-12 and Big 12 with championship droughts of 16 and 15 years respectively. The Pac-12 has featured some elite talent with 14 #1 draft picks, but they rank last in total first-round picks and national championships. USC’s mini-dynasty from 2003-2005 helps the Pac-12 avoid the basement, an honor belonging to the Big 12. The Big 12 only have two championships since 1985 – every other conference has at least three titles since 1997. Oklahoma has really been the only team doing anything on the national level since Vince Young and the Longhorns in 2005, which lands them in the basement.
Overall, regarding these three major sports, the SEC has to be considered the most complete conference, with the ACC coming in a close second. Both came in with a trio of top-3 finishes and a #1 ranking. Overall, I’d rank the SEC #1 and the ACC 2. After that, I’d say the Pac-12 takes #3, fueled by their dominance on the diamond, and the Big 10 clocks in at #4. The Big 12 was the clear choice for last place, as they took last place in two of the three sports, with their fourth-place finish in baseball saving them from a sweep of the cellar.