Which Conferences Do Best in the NCAA Tournament- Part II


In Part II of the series on which conferences do best in the NCAA tournament, I turn my attention to other ways of determining “success”. This post will analyze how many teams a conference typically sends to the Sweet 16 and compare that to the proportion of the teams in the conference as a whole.

First, lets look at the eight conferences who have sent a minimum of two teams to the NCAA tournament every year from 2006-2011 and see how many, and perhaps more importantly, what proportion of its teams make the Sweet 16. I choose the Sweet 16, because for many that is the critical round for a season to be considered successful. Perhaps for a team like Duke or Kentucky “only” making it to the Sweet 16 would be considered a failure. But, for the other 340+ teams in Division I, a trip to the Sweet 16 is considered the mark of a successful season and anything more than that is just icing on the cake.

What the Sweet 16 also signifies is that they are one of the top 5% (actually 4.6%) in the country. Teams have to have won two games in the NCAA tournament to get to that round, so one freak upset is not enough. For many to make it there it requires an upset win in one or both of the rounds and/or at the minimum for the top seeds at least one game against a good opponent.

Big East42352218
Big 1212232111
Big Ten01223210
Atlantic 100011114

The chart above shows the number of Sweet 16 teams each conference had for each year from 2006-2011. However, you have to remember that difference conferences have different numbers of teams. Thus, you would expect the Big East, with its 16 teams, to have 60% more Sweet 16 teams on average than the Pac-10 with only the 10 teams. So, a better way to view that would be to look at the proportion of a conference’s teams it sends to the Sweet 16 in any given year.

 TotalAverage/year% of bids% of teams in conf.
Big East183.0037.50%18.75%
Big 12111.8334.38%15.28%
Big Ten101.6728.57%15.15%
Atlantic 1040.6725.00%6.67%

As you can see above, the Pac-10 sends the highest proportion of its bids to the Sweet 16 of any conference in the country. When you divide the total number of teams who make the Sweet 16 by the total number of teams in a conference, the Big East and Pac-10 are just about equal.

What should also stand out is that the ACC and SEC do not look nearly so impressive as they did when you just looked at total wins. What is obvious here is that the ACC (Duke and North Carolina) and SEC (Florida and Kentucky) have a small number of dominant teams who make it to the Sweet 16 and above.

When analyzing parity, one way to examine it is to ask how many different teams has a conference sent to the Sweet 16 in the past six years. Looking at it this way, the Pac-10 and Big 12 have the most parity, while the ACC and SEC lag way behind.

For instance, in the six years examined above for the Pac-10 seven different teams (70% of the conference) made the Sweet 16 at least once; Arizona (2009, 2011), UCLA (2006, 2007, 2008), Washington (2006, 2010), Washington State (2008), Stanford (2008), Oregon (2007), and USC (2007).

In comparison, let’s look at how the other conferences have done in terms of parity:

ACC- 4 of 12 teams (33.3%): Duke (2006, 2009-11), North Carolina (2007-09, 2011), Florida State (2011), Boston College (2006)

Big Ten- 4 of 11 teams (36.4%): Michigan State (2008-10), Ohio State (2007, 2010-11), Purdue (2008-09), Wisconsin (2008, 2011)

SEC- 5 of 12 teams (41.7%): Florida (2006-07, 2011), Tennessee (2007-08, 2010), Kentucky (2010-11), Vanderbilt (2007), LSU (2006)

Big East- 8 of 16 teams (50.0%): UConn (2006, 2009, 2011), West Virginia (2006, 2008, 2010), Villanova (2006, 2008, 2009), Syracuse (2009-10), Louisville (2008-09), Pittsburgh (2007, 2009), Georgetown (2006-07), Marquette (2011)

Big 12- 7 of 12 teams (58.3%): Kansas (2007-09, 2011), Texas (2006, 2008), Baylor (2010), Kansas State (2010), Missouri (2009), Oklahoma (2009), Texas A&M (2007)

Mountain West Conference- 3 of 9 (33.3%): San Diego State (2011), BYU (2011), UNLV (2007)

Atlantic 10- 2 of 10 teams (20%): Xavier (2008-10), Richmond (2011)

In Part Three of this series, we’ll examine which conferences are more prone to major upsets in the NCAA tournament and which conferences rarely suffer an upset. This will get the seeding and whether teams are being seeded properly. Spoiler Alert; it doesn’t look good for the teams in the Eastern Time Zone.