Once the first game of the NCAA tournament begins, we shed conference identities for the four regions, but the question is always there: is there a conference that dominates the madness?
Let’s take a look at how every conference has fared in the NCAA tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and then dive a little deeper.
This first table is ordered alphabetically, and includes stats from now-extinct conferences (denoted with asterisks):
|Big 8 *||67||49||57.76%|
|Great Midwest *||15||12||55.56%|
|MW City *||2||1||66.67%|
|MW Coll *||10||22||31.25%|
Now, it’s important to note that a few entries on the top list are simply different segments of the same conferences. For instance, the Pac-10 and the Pac-12 are the same conference, just at different periods in history. Because of conference growth and realignment, however, we’ll treat each conference iteration as its own.
Out of the 32 current conferences, just eight have winning records in the tournament's modern format
Here they are, ordered by winning percentage:
For a better picture (literally) here’s a visual look at where all these wins are located, featuring all 47 conferences’ win totals:There’s some serious saturation here! The king of the hill statistically, the ACC, is the only conference with 300 tournament wins since '85. It takes adding up the bottom 36 conferences' win totals to surpass the ACC’s total — 346-318.
As one might guess, the winningest conference also has the best win percentage of any that has played more than three games, with the ACC winning almost two-thirds of its games, at 66.25 percent.
And finally, here’s a look at a few interesting notes from some of the conferences with losing records:
Atlantic Sun: The A-Sun has played just under one-quarter of its 38 tournament games against the ACC, but one-third of its wins have come against the ACC.Big West: The Big West has won four of six tournament meetings with the Big East in a battle of [Size] [Cardinal Direction] conferences.
CAA: The Colonial has four wins vs. the ACC, but has gone 0-9 against Conference USA, Horizon, and A-10 combined.
Horizon: A winning record against the winningest conference in the tournament? The Horizon is 2-1 vs. the ACC.
MEAC: Despite 32 appearances, a MEAC team has never faced the Big Ten. It’s the only active DI conference the Big Ten hasn’t faced in the tournament.
MVC: The Missouri Valley was averaging 1.1 wins per tournament since 1985. Then Loyola-Chicago picked up four in 2018.
NEC: Unfortunately, the NEC is the only conference with at least 20 appearances and no wins. It's also the lone winless current conference.
Summit: In 11 appearances, a Summit team has never met an SEC team.
WAC: Interestingly, the WAC went 5-2 against the Pac-10, and has yet to meet the Pac-12.
WCC: These west coast rabble rousers have winning records against the SEC (3-1) and Big East (7-5).