Conference Realignment: Which Conferences Look the Strongest?

USA TODAY Sports

The ACC is aces, but where does the new Big Ten shake out in the overall?

There's no perfect way to do this, and with the fluidity inherent in realignment, the real-time exercise of trying to determine which leagues will be the strongest when all the dust settles -- if it ever settles -- is somewhat ridiculous. However, with the announcement of the Big Ten sponorsing lacrosse for the 2015 season and Johns Hopkins coming along for the ride (a game changer at the Division I level), the question is still out there: Which leagues look the strongest based on all the realignment that has already occurred?

Here's what I did to try and answer that question: Using the last four years' worth of information, I came up with a blended conference Pythagorean win expectation based on how leagues will look in the near future (for example, the ACC calculation considers on Syracuse, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia, pretending that this conference was constituted in this fashion since 2010). There are issues with this -- teams that have not yet begun play (Boston University, Massachusetts-Lowell, Furman, Richmond, and Monmouth) aren't included in the analysis, and their future play is going to impact their leagues' overall ratings; some schools -- like Michigan, High Point, Marquette, etc. -- haven't played at the Division I level over the last four seasons, and their inclusion in this exercise creates some noise; the ECAC may no longer exist in a few seasons, the NEC is in search for another member, and the Atlantic Sun has a short data set; etc. -- but it does a decent job at approximating the volition of these conference's over the last four years and how things may look as all the movement solidifies itself.

As it turns out, there are some pretty interesting results. To the table!

ADJUSTED EFFICIENCY MARGIN: BEST IMPROVEMENTS AND WORST REGRESSIONS
CONFERENCE 2013 PYTH. WIN % 2012 PYTH. WIN % 2011 PYTH. WIN % 2010 PYTH. WIN % AVERAGE RANK
ACC 69.41% 66.16% 72.77% 75.95% 71.08% 1
Ivy 62.10% 56.57% 57.47% 55.19% 57.83% 2
Big Ten 52.65% 53.44% 58.69% 56.75% 55.38% 3
Patriot 52.27% 58.01% 46.84% 49.90% 51.75% 4
Colonial 45.36% 51.11% 48.9% 52.83% 49.40% 5
Big East 47.04% 48.35% 50.77% 41.50% 46.92% 6
ECAC 49.43% 47.34% 44.82% 37.88% 44.87% 7
America East 42.29% 42.41% 45.60% 39.77% 42.52% 8
Northeast 35.08% 38.32% 40.27% 41.88% 38.89% 9
MAAC 34.14% 35.48% 41.48% 38.47% 37.39% 10
Atlantic Sun 21.88% 22.21% 21.21% 33.31% 24.65% 11

Some brief thoughts:

  • The ACC is Division I's gold standard and nothing approaches it. Even with Maryland's departure for the Big Ten, the ACC is far and away the nation's best conference based on the last four seasons. It would take an epic collapse from that league for another conference to approach its position on the hierarchy.
  • The Ivy League has generally improved each of the last four seasons. That's . . . that's how it's done, people.
  • The Big Ten will enter play in 2015 as, more likely than not, one of the top four or five strongest leagues in the country. That's an attention grabber, even if the league itself isn't quite sure what it has on its hands or how it plans to platform the sport.
  • The Atlantic Sun is going to have a tough time keeping up with the big boys, especially considering that the league is going to be running with three -- High Point, Furman, and Richmond -- very green programs.
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