Sports Reporter

monday muse

Time to argue: Which is the better basketball conference this season, the Big Ten or the ACC?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Atlantic Coast Conference basketball fans love their teams as wildly as Southeastern Conference football fans love what happens in their league every fall.

They simply don't reinforce their love with coordinated cheers of "A-Cee-Cee," during the NCAA Tournament the way SEC fans go territorial during every bowl game.

Maybe ACC fans should reconsider.

Especially if Tony Bennett, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams deliver an achievement that has only happened once.

What's that?

Better read the Monday Muse.

1. ACC vs. Big Ten

Big Ten fans are here to argue their conference is the toughest college basketball conference in America this season.

The Big Ten is top-rated by Ken Pomeroy -- with all 14 teams ranked in his Top 75. Top rated by Bart Torvik. You know the names.

The formulas might be right, even though the Big Ten has not produced a national champion since 2000 or even a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed since 2015. The Big Ten is unlikely to have a No. 1 seed this season.

But when the NCAA Tournament begins, the conference to watch is the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Yes, the ACC has more dregs than the Big Ten -- Pitt, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Boston College and Georgia Tech are all ranked outside Pomeroy's worst Big Ten team, which is No. 74 Northwestern.

But the ACC has a stronger list of national title contenders.

In fact, if things continue trending the way they have for the last few weeks, the ACC could be become only the second league ever to deliver three No. 1 seeds -- Duke, Virginia and North Carolina.

Virginia and Duke are consensus No. 1 seed selections, but North Carolina has positioned itself to overtake Kentucky, especially if the Tar Heels finish this week by defeating Boston College and Duke.

Check the latest AP college basketball poll. Gonzaga is on top, followed by Virginia, UNC and Duke.

Yes, the Tar Heels lost to Kentucky on a neutral floor in December. They're also 14-2 in the ACC without losses to Seton Hall and Alabama.

Yes, the Tar Heels lost to Michigan in Ann Arbor. UNC did not lose to Penn State or Iowa.

If you concede three top seeds to Gonzaga, Duke and Virginia, UNC is challenging UK, Tennessee and perhaps a Big Ten team for the final top seed.

How unusual is three No. 1 seeds from the same league?

It's happened once -- in 2009 when Pittsburgh, Louisville and UConn delivered for the Big East.

Duke, Virginia and UNC are working to expand that list.

2. Rick Pitino: Blames His Assistant Coaches, Part 317

Sooner or later, a domestic news operation would earn the first sit down interview with Rick Pitino in Greece. All you needed to do was ask and spend the $$$.

Pitino's hunger for the spotlight made that a lock. If you had John Gonzalez of TheRinger.com in your office pool about which media personality would score the interview, you can pass Go and collect the $200.

Pitino welcomed Gonzalez to Athens, granted him considerable access, shared dozens of anecdotes and blamed everything that went wrong at Louisville on his former assistant coaches again.

Oh, yeah. He also shared the news that Showtime is working on a documentary about him.

3. Matt Painter Coach of the Year

When Dick Vitale Tweeted a list of four guys that he believed deserved serious consideration for national coach of the year last week, I responded that Vitale forgot the name of the most deserving candidate:

Matt Painter of Purdue, who is on top of the league after replacing four starters and not having a first-round draft pick in his lineup.

That was before Michigan and Michigan State stumbled, giving Purdue a clear lane to the Big Ten regular season title if the Boilermakers can handle road games against Minnesota and Northwestern this week.

That was also before Painter shared his post-game view that it was time for Purdue fans to stop the profane anti-Indiana University cheer they've been embarrassing themselves with at every game for years.

Good for Painter.

Now somebody at Indiana needs to grab the microphone at Assembly Hall and direct the students to clean up their acts, too.

4. Donovan Mitchell Good Guy of the Year

We know Donovan Mitchell is the best player the University of Louisville has sent to the NBA since … Pervis Ellison … Derek Smith … Darrell Griffith?

But we also know that Donovan Mitchell is the best guy U of L basketball has produced in many, many years.

Mitchell, who is winding down his second season with the Utah Jazz, proved it again the other night.

5. It's Fun Being Dabo Swinney

There are many perks that come in the aftermath of defeating Nick Saban and Alabama for the college football national championship.

More recruits answer your phone calls. Your team gets invited to the White House. You earn more than European royalty.

And, the St. Louis Cardinals invite you to spring training for a round of batting practice.

If the Cardinals could not recruit Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, they did land Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney.

6. The Next Generation of Houstons

Wade Houston and his son, Allan, were thrilled to be honored by the Tennessee basketball program at the insistence of Vols coach Rick Barnes during the first TV timeout of UT's win over Kentucky Saturday.

But there is one thing that made Wade Houston prouder: When I asked him about his grandson, Allan III.

Allan Houston's oldest son is on his way to an Ivy League football career and education at Brown in Providence, R.I.

He'll compete as either a receiver or defensive back at Brown, after also considering several other Ivy League schools, Buffalo, UConn and Temple.

"He's extremely fast," Wade Houston said.

And Grandfather is extremely proud.

7. Obligatory New York Post Tweet

The New York Post Sports Twitter feed is a must follow.

Miss it and you’ll miss stories like this one, which actually have interest in the local sports discussion.

See?

8. Chuck Todd vs. Bryce Harper

If you listen to the Tony Kornheiser podcast, "This Show Stinks," you understand that NBC News guru Chuck Todd is more than simply the host of Meet The Press.

Todd is also a dedicated sports junkie, who is a rabid Miami Hurricanes football fan as well as somebody who finished on the plus side while picking 5 or 6 NFL games on the Kornheiser podcast every week. That ain't easy.

Turns out Todd also has an opinion or two about Major League Baseball.

9. Cincinnati Reds: NL Central Contender?

My friend Paul is not a Cincinnati Reds fan. He's not even a National League Central fan.

He's a White Sox fan as well as an ardent baseball fan, a guy who hangs out at the ball parks in the Phoenix area many, many mornings during spring training.

Understanding the hunger for a return to glory by the Cincinnati Reds in this area, I thought I'd share the news that my friend Paul shared with me last week:

The Reds will be one of baseball's surprise teams this season.

Cincinnati appeared to get serious about the job of chasing the Brewers, Cardinals and Cubs by adding Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and others.

The Reds' projected win total in PECOTA, the computer formula favored by Baseball Prospectus, is 84.

Don't tell Joe Maddon, but that is the same total as the Cubs and only five fewer than the Brewers and Cardinals.

That won't get Cincinnati in the playoffs but it would be a 17-game upgrade over 2018.

10. Rick Pitino Tweet of the Week

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