Issue # 25.3 “25 Years: The Conferences”


Tuesday, April 7, 2020 [ 1-Entries | 2-Teams ]

30-32 automatic bids each year, 9 conf never getting more than 1 bid

Teams and Titles by Conference

EL SEGUNDO/HOME, CA (smt)- Would the Big Ten (B10) have gotten a record 12 (of 14) teams into the tournament?  More likely 10 which would’ve been the second-highest ever (Big East (BE) 11 in ’11).  Would the Big Ten top the record 19 wins by the Atlantic Coast (ACC) in ’16?  But we’ll never know.  So without a tournament, here is another 25 Year retrospective, this time focusing on the conferences who have made the tournament (the proper 64 that is).

What we do know is that for the past 25 years, 38 conferences have existed with only the American West (AW) (’95-’96) and Great West (GW) (’10-’13) not putting any teams in (no automatic bid due to not enough teams in conference those years).  Currently, all 32 Division I conferences get an automatic bid (though again, four of the worst conference tournament winners will vie in First Four).  Nine conferences have never gotten an at-large bid.  From ’01-’10 the two lowest auto bid tournament champions (team #64 and #65) played in the Opening Round game.  From ’11 to present, the four lowest auto bid champions play in the First Four.  13 conferences have put their auto bid team in the Opening Round/First Four with the Southwestern Athletic (SWA) doing it 11 of 19 years.  Because they have lost 9 of those Opening Round/First Four games, the SWA have only placed a team in the proper 64 bracket 16 of 25 years.

The Atlantic 10 (A10) is a perfect 3-0 in the First Four with five others 2-0 (America East (AE) – keeping a streak of all 25 years with just one team in proper 64, Big West (BW), Colonial Athletic (CAA), Ohio Valley (OVC), and Summit (SUM)).  The Pac-12 (P12) is 3-4 (including losing both in ’18, the only conference to ever have 2 teams in First Four) while the Big 12 (B12) has appeared just once (won in ’17).  The Northeast (NEC) has appeared in 7 straight First Four games (’13 to present) going 3-4 (4-5 overall).  The Mid-Eastern Athletic (MEA) has lost 3 straight First Four games (’17 to present) (3-6 overall).  Despite this, the MEA actually has 3 wins in the tournament (#15 Coppin St ’97, #15 Hampton ’01, and #15 Norfolk St in ’12).

Currently, the Power 5 conferences are the B10, ACC, P12, Southeastern (SEC), and B12.  The Big East was one until their split in ’14 where the Big East was renamed the American Athletic (AAC) and the Catholic 7 formed a new conference – the Big East.  The NCAA record book keeps old and new Big East together though.  All 25 NCAA champions have come from these 7 conferences.  The Power 5 plus the Big East have had the most teams in every tournament with the lone exceptions being the A10 which tied the ACC, B10, BE, and SEC with 5 teams in ’98 and USA which tied the ACC, BE, and SEC with 6 in ’04.  The ACC has won 8 titles overall and 3 of the past 5 (Duke, UNC, Virginia) while the Big East (old and new) has won 7.  Kentucky (3 titles) and Florida (2) have powered the SEC to 5 while the P12 has two titles but none since ’97 (Arizona).   The B10 (Mich St ’00), B12 (Kansas ’08), and AAC (UConn fourth title in ’14 – their first 3 were with the BE) have won once each.

2013-14 Team and Conference Changes

There were 33 conferences in our first year in ’95 but the aforementioned AW, Big South (BS) (had 9 teams but only 5 were in BS for 5+ years (need 6)), and Mid-Continent (MCC) (lost 6, gained 6, but only 4 were in MCC for 5+ years) did not get an auto bid and none of the teams were selected as an at-large.  When 5 of 7 teams from the Metro Collegiate Athletic (MET) and 6 of 7 from the Great Midwest (GMW) conferences merged to form Conference USA (USA), USA didn’t get an auto bid its first year in ’96 but still got 4 at-large teams in.  When the Mountain West (MWC) was formed in ’00 it also didn’t get an auto bid its first year but got 2 teams in.   However, both the Big 12 (formed by absorbing the 8 teams from the Big Eight (B8) and 4 from the Southwest (SW) which folded) in ’97 and AAC in ’14 got an auto bid its first year of play.  One conference started and stopped without an auto bid (GW) as it had a 5-year transition it never completed (’10-’13).  There has been at least one independent team in 20 of 25 years but none have been selected.

This conference stuff is interesting because we have been keeping track of conference wins since ’03 in order to do our Bonus Prize (prizes hopefully will be detailed in a future 25-year retrospective).  The big conference shake-ups in ’06 (22 conf changes; USA lost 8 teams and gained 6 teams, Western Athletic (WAC) lost 4/gained 3), ’12 (6; Pac 10 gained 2 to became P12, B12 lost 2 but still called B12), ’13 (21; B12 lost 2 more but gained 2, WAC lost 3/gained 5), ’14 (whopping 55 changes including 8 old BE to new BE; A10 lost 4/gained 1, new AAC (11), GW folded (5), USA lost 4/gained 8, WAC lost 7/gained 5), and ’15 (16; AAC lost 2/gained 3, Southern (SOU) lost 4/gained 2, USA lost 3/gained 1) created havoc in trying to remember which team was in which conference. 

This year, only two changes with Merrimack playing in Division I for the first time (and actually won NEC regular season but ineligible for post-season until ’24) and Savannah St (MEA) dropping to Division II.  Some teams have really bounced around such as ’13 champ Louisville (’95 MET, ’96 USA, ’06 BE, ’14 AAC, ’15 ACC), TCU (’95 SW, ’97 WAC, ’02 USA, ’06 MWC, ’13 B12), and would’ve made it this year for first time since ’91 Rutgers (’95 A10, ’96 BE, ’14 AAC, ’15 B10).  New Div I teams used to go the Independent route but are now coming into conferences at the start (e.g., Merrimack).  The WAC will lose two teams next season but will pick up two brand new Div I teams coming from Div II (Dixie St and Talerton St).  New teams Bellarmine and UC San Diego will debut with Atlantic Sun (AS) and Big West (BW), respectively, while newly renamed Kansas City (’19 from UMKC) will go from the WAC to SUM and Purdue Ft Wayne (renamed ’18 from IPFW) will go from SUM to Horizon (HOR).

In 25 years, the ACC has tied or had the most wins 8 times, SEC 6 times, B10 and B12 5 times each, and BE (old) and P10 3 times each (never as new BE or P12 though).  The ACC has won 239 games (9.56 per tourney) while BE (215, 8.60) and B10 (213, 8.52) are both over 200 wins.  The P12 brings up the rear of the Power 5 with just 153 wins (6.12) while the SEC has 192 wins (7.68).  Of the mid-majors, the A10 (63, 2.17), USA (55, 2.29 (24 yrs)), and AAC (13, 2.17 (6 yrs)) lead the pack, all over 2 wins per tournament.  The most wins outside the Power 5+BE is the B8 with 8 way back in ’95 and a few that managed 6 (A10 ’96, ’04, and ’13; USA ’96 and ’05; WAC ’98 and West Coast (WCC) ’17).  The P12 actually got zero wins (its 3 teams losing both First Four games and First Round) in ’18.  The P12 also picked up just one win three times (’99, ’04, and ’12) while The B10 (’95), SEC (’09) and BE (’19) picked up just one win once.  The ACC has always won at least 5 games each year and has won at least 11 the past 5 years.

Staying with the once powerful P10/P12, it has gotten at least two teams in the tourney but twice (’12, ’18) it only sent one to the proper 64.  The B12 has gotten at least 4 teams in every year with the ACC, BE, and B10 getting at least 3.  The SEC also has gotten at least 3 teams in each tourney but in ’16 lost a First Four game so only got 2 in the proper 64.  Of the mid-majors, the A10 has gotten at least 2 teams in the past 14 years (high of 6 in ’14) and 23 of the 25 years.  The AAC has gotten at least 2 in each of their 6 years of existence.  The MWC has gotten at least 2 in 17 of 20 years of existence (high of 4 in ’10, ’12, and ’13).  The first 11 years of USA’s existence (’96-’06) they got at least 2 teams in.  Overall, the BE has gotten 149 teams in (5.96 per tourney), B10 146 (5.84), ACC 136 (5.44), B12 131 (5.70, 23 yrs), SEC 126 (5.04), and P12 107 (4.28).  Mid-major A10 is averaging more than 3 teams (79, 3.16).  Of course, the low is 16 teams by the SWA (0.64).

Winningest Conference

But since we started tracking this for the $40 Bonus in ’03 (17 years), the ACC has led with 7, the B12 and SEC with 4 each, and the BE and B10 with 3 each.  No P10/P12 (closest was ’07 when they had 10 wins and SEC had 11).  Each year there is a “Winningest Conference” that each entry subconsciously compiles based on their bracket picks.  A team to win it all is 6 wins for that conference.  It doesn’t matter if you got it wrong, for example, if you picked ACC’s Duke to win it all but ACC’s UNC does, that is still 6 wins for the ACC you get credit for.  Thus, the minimum would be 6 and in ’10 we came close with just 9, tied by the B10, ACC, and B12.  On average, the winningest conference gets 13.4 wins.   After ’14, the B12, ACC, B10, and SEC each were the winningest conference 3 times each before the ACC went to claim the title 4 of the next 5 years.  After the first weekend, we post the leaders of the winningest conference, the number of teams left, and its max number of wins.  This is a manual process (but at least the calculating of each entry’s winningest conference and wins is automatic).

Mid-major conferences that did well started to lose teams.  MET was doing well but merged with GMW to form USA in ’96.  The USA was doing well until it lost 8 teams in ’06 (5 to the BE).  The WAC (where Utah was a finalist in ’98) lost 8 teams in ’00 to the new MWC.  MWC lost two key teams in ’12 (BYU to WCC, Utah to P12) though it still managed to get 4 teams in ’12 and ’13.  ’11-’12 Finalist Butler (HOR) and ’11 Final Four VCU (CAA) both bolted for the A10 in ’13 (Butler further jumped up to the BE in ’14).  ’06 Final Four George Mason (CAA) also went to the A10 in ’14.  USA Final Four teams Marquette (’03) went to the BE in ’06, Louisville (’05) to the BE in ’06 (and ACC in ’14), and USA finalist Memphis (’08) went to the AAC in ’14.  The only current mid-major teams (3 of 10) who made it to the Final Four and are not part of the Power 5+BE+AAC are VCU, ’18 Loyola-Chicago (MVC), and ’17 finalist Gonzaga (WCC).  And that is part of the reason there has not been a mid-major champion since UNLV (BW) in ’90 (now MWC). 

And this year we could’ve seen a champion from the WCC (#2 Gonzaga), A10 (#3 Dayton), or MWC (#6 San Diego St).  Sigh…

   Tids & Bits – … the years referenced refer to the NCAA tournament year (e.g., 1995-96 season is ’96)… the North Atlantic (NAC) was renamed the AE in ’96… the Trans-Atlantic Athletic (TAA) was renamed Atlantic Sun (AS) in ’01… the Midwest Collegiate (MWCC) was renamed the Horizon League in ’01… the Mid-Continent  (MCC) renamed to the Summit League in ’07… Ivy and Patriot are the other “Leagues”…  technically, the MVC has kept its name the longest (1908)… the oldest league, IVY, was renamed from the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League (EIB) in ’57… the Big Ten has been the traditional name but officially, it was the Intercollegiate Conf of Faculty Representatives (ICF) until ’87… the Eastern 8 (E8) became the A10 in ’83… in ’89, the Eastern College Athletic Conference-Metro Conference (ECA) became the NEC and the Pacific Coast (PCC) became the BW… the last independent team was NJIT in ’15… no independent teams in ’98 and ’16 to present… before USA, the newest conf was the PAT formed in ’91… the East Coast (ECC) folded right before our first year in ’95 with 5 going to the MCC… the NEC (0-for-21) and SWA are the only conferences without a tournament win (proper 64)…  BS has one win in 21 tries (Winthrop ’07)… the Mid-American (MAC) got 2 teams in 3 of the first 5 years (’95-’99) and has been a single bid ever since (luckily, never had to play in an Opening or First Four game)… Big Sky (SKY), SOU, and IVY have had just one bid every year and never had to play in the Opening or First Four game… Sun Belt (SUN) has 25 teams in 25 tournaments but one year they had 2 (’08) and one year they lost a First Four game (’11)… Southland (SL) and Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAA) are the last 2 conferences not mentioned yet… 30 conference auto bids in ’95 changed sides in ’96 (30 – BS and MCC earned back their auto bids; GMW and MET dropped out), ’97 (30 – USA and B12 in but B8 and Southwest (SWC) out), ’01 (31 – MWC earned auto bid), and ’14 (32 – AAC)… after the ACC’s 19 wins, 17 is the next highest (ACC ’15, BE ’09)…  the Ivy League was the last league to have its automatic bid not be their regular season champion when they formed a 4-team post-season tournament in ’17… BYU (and Campbell) never plays on Sunday and almost messed up the tournament when the ’13 NCAA committee placed them on a Fri/Sun schedule for the 2nd weekend (forcing them to switch Regionals if they made the Sweet 16), but they didn’t even win their first game… yes, in ’12 the B10 had 12 teams (Nebraska joining) and the B12 had 10 teams (Nebraska and Colorado leaving) – now, the B10 had 14 teams and the B12 still has 10… with more tests available, USA is up to 398,809 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 12,895 deaths… Stay safe!

I have subconsciously picked the ACC 8 times getting it right 5 times; won 1st Bns in ’03 (B12 14 wins)…

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