It’s the only guaranteed way to play in the NCAA tournament: Win your conference, and you’re in.
But once March Madness starts, very rarely do we see intra-conference matchups. Instead, we get the best teams from each conference squaring off. So, which conferences have performed better against the competition in NCAA tournament play? We looked at every game since the NCAA tournament expanded to its modern format in 1985.
Immediately, one thing is clear: None of the 32 are better than the ACC.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has played every other conference in the NCAA tournament, other than the Summit. It also owns the most winning records against other conferences, having better than a .500 record against all except the SEC (19-27), Horizon (1-2), and Patriot (1-1).
The ACC is also one half of the most common conference matchup in the NCAA tournament, having played the Big East 70 times, with a 36-34 record.
The most famous of those matchups came in 2016, when Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer-beating half-court shot to beat North Carolina for the national championship.
Close behind is Duke’s 61-59 win over Butler in 2010, as the Blue Devils avoided Gordon Hayward’s half-court miracle.
The ACC is also the only conference with double digit championships since 1985, having won 10 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. The Big East is close behind with eight — two of those coming in the past three years.
|Conference||Championships (since 1985)||Years|
|ACC||10||1991, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017|
|Big East||8||1985, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018,|
|SEC||6||1994, 1996, 1998, 2006, 2007, 2012|
|Big Ten||3||1987, 1989, 2000|
Speaking of the Big East, the conference is the owner of the biggest undefeated streak against another conference, sitting at 8-0 against the NEC.
The NEC happens to be the only one of the 32 current conferences without a single NCAA tournament win.
Here’s where every conference ranks in inter-conference NCAA tournament win percentage since 1985:
|Conference||Total wins||Total losses||Percentage|