USA TODAY Sports’ Scott Gleeson breaks down how South Carolina earned a berth in the Sweet 16 by upsetting No. 2 Duke.

The reputed best conference in the country has some explaining to do.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, which sent nine teams to the NCAA tournament, has one left standing (North Carolina) after two rounds. That’s quite a slide from a year ago when the ACC put a record six teams in the Sweet 16 and two in the Final Four, a banner year that came with offseason bragging rights.

The bragging might be quieter this offseason.*

Surpassing expectations was the much-maligned Big Ten, slammed throughout the season and ignored completely in February when the selection committee offered a preview of its thinking: No Big Ten teams were among the top 16 seeds (none, the committee said, merited a 1, 2, 3 or 4).

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Who’s laughing now?

The Big Ten has three in the Sweet 16, including Wisconsin, the No. 8 seed in the East, which knocked off defending champ and overall No. 1 Villanova in the second round.

Joining the Badgers: Michigan, No. 7 in the Midwest, which KO’d No. 2 seed Louisville; and Purdue, No. 4 in the Midwest. (The Big 12, the SEC and the Pac-12 also have three teams each in the Sweet 16, along with two from the Big East, one from the West Coast Conference and lonely UNC from the ACC.)

“Our league is very good,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said after the Boilermakers reached the Sweet 16 on Saturday night.

“Tell (critics) to go play Michigan. People that don’t think our league is any good, tell them to go play Wisconsin. They’re not an eighth seed. I don’t understand that,” Painter said, his voice rising with irritation. “You don’t understand basketball if you put Wisconsin as the eighth seed. Wisconsin is one of the toughest teams in the country, period.”

That sums it up pretty well.

Here are the standings among the power leagues (with number of teams entered):

ACC (nine): 7-8

Big 12 (six): 8-3

Big Ten (seven): 8-4

Big East (five): 5-5

Pac-12 (four): 8-1

SEC (four): 7-2

*Of course, if North Carolina wins it all, then never mind.



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