Can't separate ACC, Big East? Why care?

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Perennial and pointless. Intriguing and infuriating. Comical and confusing.

So goes this college basketball season's jousting over conference supremacy.

ACC or Big East? Carolina or Connecticut? Hansbrough or Harangody?

We stage this debate each winter. Some years the consensus settles on the Big Ten or Pacific 10, ACC or SEC, Big East or Big 12.

This season is different. This season we have no consensus. Moreover, we have exaggeration from adults who should know better.

Big East coaches Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and Rick Pitino of Louisville call this the league's best season ever. North Carolina's Roy Williams and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski lavish similar praise on the ACC.

Dick Vitale, who peddles hype like Iowa does corn, proclaims Big East '09 the strongest conference he's seen in 30 years of pontificating.

Truth is, it's been a remarkable season for both leagues, and any person or computer proclaiming to know who's best is blowing smoke.

After all, the ACC tournament doesn't tip until today, the Big East is merely in its quarterfinals, and the NCAA clambake doesn't commence until next week. Wouldn't it be prudent to wait until the national tournament to determine conference superiority?

Sorry. Prudence is as old-school as Afros, canvas high-tops and short shorts. We must have answers now.

OK, if you insist. But answers require numbers, and good luck deciphering these.

According to Wednesday's rankings, the ACC accounted for three top-10 teams, five top-20s and 10 top-100s. Only No. 157 Georgia Tech was below 110th.

The Big East countered with the same number of top-10s and -20s, but 12 top-100s. However, three of its teams were outside the top 150, anchored by 195th DePaul.

After digesting that smorgasbord, the RPI computer belches that the ACC is No. 1.

Given all the propaganda, you would expect this to represent unprecedented depth for both conferences. Not so.

Just two years ago, 10 ACC teams populated the top 100, with nine in the top 55. In 2006, the Big East boasted 13 top-100 squads.

So why this season's hype?

Part of it is cultural. Online media and their consumers have the institutional memories of gerbils. Context and history are for suckers and geriatrics.

Part of it is political. Delusionally believing that tepid media reviews of the conference contributed to fewer NCAA tournament invites, ACC coaches this season vowed a public-relations offensive.

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