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Which Is More Dominant: SEC Football or Big East Basketball?

One of the stories to come out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the mighty Big East and their five teams in the Sweet 16. While the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-10 got more than half their league based on reputation, the Big East proved their worth. (The Big 12 has 3 of 6 teams left, a good mark had the Big East not have 5 of 7 left. Marquette was a few seconds from making it 6 of 7.)

When the Big East was raided by the ACC for football teams at Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech, many doubted if the Big East was worth anything. While their eight football schools won't challenge anyone, expansion in basketball has paid off. When the Big East became a 16 team basketball league, days like Sunday was the goal.

But does Big East Basketball compare to SEC Football? Historically, we can start with 1985, the first year of the 64 team tournament. Since that time, the Big East has won four National Championships (Villanova, UConn [2], Syracuse). The SEC has won seven Mythical National Championships (Alabama, Florida [3], Tennessee, LSU [2]). This is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. If you put the SEC Champ in a Final Four, do you think they would have won seven titles? Of course not. A few would have slipped up. If we include basketball runners up, it evens it out (Georgetown, Syracuse [2], Seton Hall).

However, we can compare the final AP polls for SEC Football versus the Sweet 16 for Big East Basketball. Again, we'll start with 1985. To make it interesting, let's add the other super conference that beats their chest when it comes to a particular sport. (I used the AP Poll Archive and ESPN's Tourney Extras historical brackets.)

SEC Football Appearances In AP Top-16: 87

Big East Basketball Appearances In Sweet 16: 58

ACC Basketball Appearances In Sweet 16: 64

Since 1998, the creation of the BCS, SEC Football has been even more dominant. The Big East Basketball pulls ahead of the ACC in terms of appearances. (* note national championships.)

Year SEC Top-16 Teams Big East Sweet 16 Teams ACC Sweet 16 Teams
1998 4* 3 3
1999 4 2 2
2000 1 2 2
2001 4 1 2*
2002 3 2 2*
2003 4 4* 2
2004 4* 3* 3
2005 5 2 3*
2006 4* 4 2
2007 4* 2 1
2008 4* 2 1


The SEC comes out on top, 41-27-23. (Note: 2009 not included since they have not played the 2009 College Football season.)

The Big East, to match SEC Football, has to put together a few years of Sweet 16 appearences like they have done in 2009. They also have to win National Championships. Already in this decade, the Big East has won back-to-back titles (UConn '03, Syracuse '04). But so has the ACC (Duke '01, Maryland '02) and the SEC (Florida '06, '07). SEC Football has won three consecutive and four of six BCS Championships. The last time a conference won three consecutive backetball championships was 1991-93 (Duke [2], UNC). It appears as if any challenge to SEC Football is still a few years in the making. Now, won't you chant with me?