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SVP's One Big Thing: Gaming college basketball NET rankings

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SVP's One Big Thing: How the Big 12 has gained an advantage (3:42)

Scott Van Pelt says the Big 12 is the best basketball conference, but questions why the NET rankings seem to work in its favor. (3:42)

We live in a time in media where something is either the best or it sucks. Absolutes only. Well, often times more than one thing can be true at once.

Case in point: the Big 12 is the best basketball conference. That's my opinion, I believe it to be a fact. They currently have 10 teams in the top 45 in the NET rankings. About that ... the comments from Clemson Tigers coach Brad Brownell point out another truth. The Big 12 has effectively manipulated those NET rankings in a way that benefits them significantly.

On WCCP radio, Brownell pointed out how the out-of-conference scheduling of the Big 12 helps ensure higher NET rankings so that once they play in-conference games, everyone benefits because you're only head-to-head with highly ranked teams.

Regarding that out-of-conference, Brownell said, "They're playing 300-level teams and winning by 40 and 50 points to increase their offensive and defensive efficiency numbers, which is a big part of the NET tool." I would interject to say that's not entirely correct -- the quality of the opponent is taken into account. Brownell added, "Our league has zero teams in the top 50 of the NET that have a nonconference strength of schedule 250 or higher. The Big 12 has six teams."

I appreciate a coach being willing to name names -- which Brownell did. Specifically pointing out the Cincinnati Bearcats and Iowa State Cyclones as examples of out-of-conference schedules that were -- to use his word -- awful. Now, that is an opinion ... so I looked. Hard to argue it's not a fact.

Here's where fans get mad -- so Cyclone fans, please listen to me. I know you're good because you are. But look at your out-of-conference and you see exactly what Brownell is talking about. Outside of a big win over in-state rival Iowa, it's mostly 40-point blowouts versus hopelessly overmatched teams. It also includes losses to the Texas A&M Aggies and the ACC's own Virginia Tech Hokies. Which, no shock, Brownell mentioned in noting the ACC is 9-3 against the Big 12 this season.

That includes Clemson's win over the TCU Horned Frogs. Again quoting Brownell, "We played TCU, beat TCU, TCU's doing well in the Big 12. And I remember preparing for the TCU game and telling my staff, 'Look who they've played.' They haven't played anybody. Every game is Abilene Christian and Houston Baptist. We're getting ready to play them and we've already played a really hard schedule. But look at their NET. Their NET rankings get up and then when they beat each other up, they don't have bad losses."

And that, as I mentioned earlier, is the way you game this one particular data point the committee uses. You have a cheat code if you can artificially bump your NET ranking out of conference, you're effectively depositing money you draw down against in conference play.

If this sounds like preemptive sour grapes from the Tigers coach, it's not. Clemson is 23 in the NET and 24 in KenPom -- they're a tournament team this year. But he does think it played a role in keeping Clemson out last year.

As I said at the start, more than one thing can be true at once. As I always say, there are facts and opinions. My opinion is that the Big 12 is the best conference. The nonconference schedule numbers are facts. But you can use the bug in the system to your advantage, which they have.

I'd add one more fact to this: The ACC can do the exact same thing next season. Nobody is stopping you. Schedule accordingly.