Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Premier Teams Promise Some Great Races

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Premier Teams Promise Some Great Races

Article excerpt

College basketball's non-conference season cleared a few things up, identifying the front runners for March while sprinkling a few surprises in along the way.

Now it's time for the true contenders to distinguish themselves.

The majority of the conference seasons start this week and there should be some great races, particularly among the bigger conferences.

To get you ready, here's a rundown of six of the conferences:

BIG TEN

The nation's top RPI conference is loaded with talented teams, including three in the top 5 of The Associated Press poll: No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 5 Michigan State. The Buckeyes and Badgers are both 13-0 and the Spartans have just one loss in 12 games. But it doesn't stop at the top. Illinois, No. 22 Iowa and Minnesota are all 11-2, while Indiana and Purdue are 10-3. Michigan is a bit of a surprise with four losses after opening the preseason at No. 7, but the conference doesn't have a team with a losing record. This conference is brutal every year and could be even more so this season.

BIG 12

The conference doesn't have the best RPI, but it too is jammed with good teams. No. 13 Iowa State leads the way at 11-0, No. 6 Oklahoma State is 11-1 and the conference is another without a losing record among its 10 teams. Favorite Kansas has three losses already, but the Jayhawks have the kind of talent that should have them contending for another title at the end. The Big 12 also has some of the nation's most dynamic players, including Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.

BIG EAST

Conference realignment could have hurt the Big East, but doesn't seem to have lessened it at all. No. 11 Villanova won its first 11 games before losing to No. 2 Syracuse on Saturday and could be a Final Four contender. Conference newbies and former mid-majors Butler and Creighton were solid during the non-conference season, each going 10-2, and both Providence and Xavier are above 10 wins. …

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