These are the worst six conferences according to average KenPom rating based on my new realignment of college basketball.
The Northeast Nine
|Central Conn. St.||NEC|
|St. Francis Brooklyn||NEC|
The average rating of this conference is dragged down a bit because it includes three teams that were in the bottom 12 in Division I last season. The most surprising team here is Robert Morris. The Colonials have big hopes to become a dominant program in the NEC and maybe beyond in the future. They’re currently building a new basketball and volleyball arena, the UPMC Events Center. Even though Saint Peter’s plays in the MAAC, it’s not surprising to see the CollegeInsider.com Tournament champions here. Head coach John Dunne has made things work in Jersey City, but it was a surprise that the Peacocks, the No. 1 seed in the CIT, were even able to host one game. The geographic proximity of this conference makes sense for everyone except the Colonials, who wouldn’t have a logical travel partner.
The Southwestern Sun Conference
|Little Rock||Sun Belt|
|Kennesaw St.||Atlantic Sun|
|South Carolina St.||MEAC|
|UT Arlington||Sun Belt|
|Mississippi Valley St.||SWAC|
|Georgia Southern||Sun Belt|
This is a new southern conference that includes elements of the MEAC and SWAC with an infusion of basketball talent from the Sun Belt. It’s not surprising that the MEAC and SWAC schools are getting jumbled together, a lot of their members are in close geographic proximity. Little Rock seems to be a bit out of place in this conference on a pure basketball level. The Trojans have a bigger basketball budget and more attendance than every school here. But it would be a cohesive southern conference ranging from UT Arlington in the west to South Carolina St. in the east.
The Southern Conference
|UNC Asheville||Big South|
|Jacksonville St.||Ohio Valley|
|Charleston Southern||Big South|
These schools are a little bit better academically than the Southwestern Sun schools, according to U.S. News, which is how they end up in this group. The conference’s overall rating is dragged down by Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama A&M, which were two of the four worst teams in Division I in 2016-17. Of course Jacksonville State made a surprise run to the NCAA Tournament too. The Gamecocks are located in Jacksonville, Alabama (not Florida!), which means they fit nicely into this conference.
The Blue Ridge Conference
|Tennessee Tech||Ohio Valley|
|East Tennessee St.||Southern|
|North Carolina A&T||MEAC|
|Tennessee St.||Ohio Valley|
These schools have basically the same profile as the Southwestern Sun schools but are located a bit further north. It’s a smattering of schools, but we’ve mostly finished assigning MEAC institutions to new homes now (with one glaring exception that will come much later in the process). This conference would be quite competitive in terms of basketball, with ETSU, UNCG and Norfolk St. all being strong programs.
The LaTex Conference
|Texas A&M-Corpus Christi||Southland|
|Sam Houston St.||Southland|
|UT Rio Grande Valley||WAC|
There’s so much right about this conference, and just one thing wrong. What’s right? We’ve compressed 13 of the 14 schools into just eastern Texas and southern Louisiana. What’s wrong? Bethune-Cookman. I’m shocked that the Wildcats were placed here. They’d be looking to leave on the double. Probably to the Southwestern Sun (which seems like a much better fit). It’s also worth noting that this is basically the current Southland Conference minus a few schools, including one that won’t be showing up for quite a bit longer. The best part of this conference? We saved UTRGV from the WAC. No more trips to Seattle; Bakersfield, Calif.; or Orem, Utah for the Vaqueros.
The Eastern Illinois Conference
|SIU Edwardsville||Ohio Valley|
|Eastern Illinois||Ohio Valley|
I named this one after one of the schools in the conference because it represents the absurdity of this cluster quite well. Three Illinois schools are joined by a nice neat 8-team eastern seaboard conference that would actually have some pretty decent basketball teams. Furman, Towson and Winthrop were all in the top 116 in KenPom last season. These schools are all relatively similar academically. Hampton stands out from an attendance standpoint, while Towson and Furman spent more than the rest of these teams. The three Illinois schools would probably need a fourth and then there’s all that deadspace in the middle of the map. But maybe it could work.
Up next: Conferences 26-24 on Tuesday at 9 a.m.