There has been a perception over the past few years that the MWC is better than the Pac-12 in basketball. I did some research over the last four years and here is my take on it.
Head to head over the past few years, the MWC has done well in regular season games but hasn't fared as well in postseason tournaments. The Pac-12 has clearly not been as dominant as it was. The top teams from the MWC — UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico and BYU — have all done well against the Pac-12. But two of those four won't be in the MWC next year.
BYU has been in the WCC, and San Diego State is headed to the Big West. It has been competitive but hard to gauge who's better off by this criteria alone. Things to consider when a top MWC team beats a lower-level Pac-12 team or vice versa are what does that mean?
Some years, teams from each conference never even play. Head to head in the regular season, I give a slight edge to the MWC and the nod to the Pac-12 for postseason play as I'll explain next.
The NCAA tournament is the best playing the best on a neutral floor on the biggest stage. This is a good way to evaluate how good a conference is. In the 2009 tourney, the Pac-12 won six games and the MWC won zero games. Arizona made it to the Sweet 16 by beating fifth-seeded and MWC champ Utah in the first round.
In the 2010 tourney, the Pac-12 won three games and the MWC won two. New Mexico was 30-4 and the pride of the MWC. But Washington beat New Mexico by 18 in the second round.
In the 2011 tourney, the Pac-12 won five games and the MWC won four. The MWC had two of its best teams, BYU and San Diego State, make it to the Sweet 16, but it was Arizona that made it to the Elite Eight.
In the 2012 tourney, the Pac-12 and MWC both had one win. Colorado beat UNLV in the first round. Stanford won the NIT in 2012 also.
Who has had better NBA talent over the past four years? The Pac-12 has had 20 players drafted — 13 were first round picks, seven of the 13 were lottery picks, and the other seven were in the second round. Alec Burks from Colorado was one of the lottery picks who technically played in the Big 12 conference.
Since 2009, the MWC has had three players drafted, and three others were drafted as WAC players from Nevada and Fresno State before they were in the MWC. One of the three was Jimmer Freddete, who was a lottery pick for the MWC, but BYU is now in the WCC.
When you look at all the information, I think the Pac-12 has more talented players and is a better league top to bottom and has achieved greater success in the NCAA tournament. The MWC has become more of a power, and its best teams can compete and win against some of the nation's best teams. The MWC has suffered from losing teams through conference realignment but has remained competitive.