Tuesday, August 16, 2011

4 16-team Super Conferences are NOT realistic

Over the last week during the latest realignment saga, the topic of super conferences keeps coming up in interviews, blogs and message board posts. Most commonly talked about is the nice, neat little package of four major conferences with 16 teams each. Why this idea has gained such widespread acceptance continues to amaze me. I guess if you say the same thing over and over people start to believe it. I won't pretend to tell you what the conference landscape will look like in the future, but I will outline the reasons why it won't look like what you hear in the majority of the media.

1. The probability of every conference having the same number of teams is virtually very low. At no time in history has there been a time where the top conferences all had the same number of teams. So to think that the four top conferences are all of the sudden going to end up with the same number is not logical.

2. There are currently 67 schools in AQ conferences plus Notre Dame. That number is likely to grow in the next few years as the Big XII looks for a replacement for Texas A&M and the Big East adds some teams like Villanova or Central Florida. Once a school is "inside" the BCS, any movement to remove a school would bring government intervention - most importantly the threat of removing tax-exempt status.

3. Not every major conference is acting like it is quick to expand. The convention is that the four conferences will be the SEC, the Pacific Twelve, the ACC and the Big Ten. The SEC will likely move to 14 very soon, but they may have a hard time getting to 16 unless they remove their restriction on adding teams already in their footprint. The PAC 12 wants to expand, but is limited in who they can get. Any expansion probably has to include Texas, but the issue of the LHN is a big hurdle. The Big Ten has never been fast to expand. They only added one team last year and have shown no indication (other than that fabricated by the media) that they are in any hurry to expand further. The ACC has shown no indications of expanding.

4. The demise of the Big 12 is premature. First, Texas wants to stay in the Big 12. They have the power and also have an easier road to the championship with Oklahoma as their only major hurdle and occasionally some other teams like Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas Tech providing obstacles and no title game to trip them up. They also have 3rd tier rights which they cannot have in any other conference. Oklahoma also has the same road to the championship and the same rights to 3rd tier games (although not as lucrative as Texas). If they move to the PAC 12, then they have that same obstacle just to get to the conference championship, NOT a national championship. It is in Texas and Oklahoma's best interest to stay in the Big 12. And the conference is as stable as those two schools, regardless of what Texas A&M does.

5. The demise of the Big East is premature also. They are continually looking to expand . They have been very proactive in making sure that if they lose teams to other conferences that they will have replacements. TCU is beginning play next year. Villanova could be coming soon if they increase their stadium size. East Carolina and Central Florida are also candidates. I don't think the Big East is going to let it's conference die.

6. Much of the impetus for the super conferences are because four conferences would lead to a playoff. First, as much as I would like a playoff, we are still a long ways away from one. Second, you don't have to have super conferences to have a 4-team playoff. Conference champions are left out of the 2-team playoff right now. Third, if you had a 4-team playoff and only the conference champions were allowed, the government would intervene.

7. The only time we have had a 16-team conference in the past, it was a failure. Once the first one or two conferences moves to 16 teams, the other conferences will sit and wait to see how successful or unsuccessful they are.

If super conferences do materialize, I don't believe it will be in the neat package that the media makes it out to be. It will either be 5 or 6 conferences with 12-16 teams each or 4 conferences with 16-20 teams. The 16-team conference is basically two 8-team divisions. Why would a conference have to stop at 16? They could still have 9 division games with a 20-team conference and the division winners play for the championship.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Does Winning Conference Tournament Lead to NCAA Tournament Success?

There was a post on Tigerboard.com discussing a quote by Bill Self where he said "We really don't care about that; the NCAA Tourney is what really matters." I responded to that post responded that 7 out of the last 10 champions were Tourney Champs. First, as with any NCAA Tournament stat, I decided to verify it and found out that the answer was 6 out of 10.

2010 Duke Yes
2009 North Carolina No
2008 Kansas Yes
2007 Florida Yes
2006 Florida Yes
2005 North Carolina No
2004 Connecticut Yes
2003 Syracuse No
2002 Maryland No
2001 Duke Yes

I went a bit further to see if winning the conference tournament was correlated with getting to the final four. I found that out of the last 40 final four teams, 18 have won their conference tournament and 22 have been at-large teams. During 4 of those years, an at-large team made the final four the same year the tourney champ from the same conference made the final four. Those teams were:

2001: Maryland - At-L; Duke - Tourney Champ
2002: Kansas - At-L; Oklahoma - Tourney Champ
2005: Michigan St - At-L; Illinois - Tourney Champ
2006: LSU - At-L; Florida - Tourney Champ

So adjusting for these years, that leaves 18 at-larges and 18 tourney champs. In conclusion, winning the conference tournament has no correlation on whether a team will make it to the final four or not.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Top NCAA Tournament Conferences

As the Big East gets ready to enter a possible record 11 teams in the NCAA Tournament, I thought I would take a look back at how the various conferences have done in recent NCAA Tournament History. For recent, I choose a nice round number (2000). Since 2000, here are the conferences with the most wins in the tournament:

1. Big East 104
2. Big Twelve 97
3. ACC 96
4. Big Ten 92
5. SEC 74
6. Pac Ten 73

It is no surprise that the Big East has had the most wins. This is for two reasons. First, the Big East has 16 teams and because of that has more potential teams in the tournament each year. The second reason is that the Big East has been the best conference in recent history.

However, when we look at tournament win percentage, the story is a little different.

1. ACC .653
2. Big Twelve .618
3. Big Ten .613
4. Big East .608
5. Pac Ten .589
6. SEC .565

So although the Big East has been one of the best conferences, they haven't been the best overall tournament conference. When you get 7+ teams in every year, there are going to be some that lose in the first round which will make the win percentage lower.

Next is the number of Final Four appearances by Conference.

1. ACC 10
2. Big Ten 9
3. Big Twelve 6
Big East 6
5. SEC 4
Pac Ten 4

The ACC is the top conference again. The Big Ten is helped by Michigan State going to 5 Final Fours since 2000.

The Big Twelve is third, but they have had the most opportunities. Here is the number of Elite Eight appearances by Conferences.

1. Big Twelve 18
2. Big East 13
Big Ten 13
4. ACC 11
5. Pac Ten 10
6. SEC 9

And it hasn't been just one school in the Big Twelve that has been the source of those 18 appearances. The Big Twelve also leads with the most schools making an Elite Eight appearance since 2000 while the ACC has been dominated by just a few schools. Here is the number of schools making Elite Eight since 2000.

1. Big Twelve 8
2. Big East 7
3. Big Ten 6
4. SEC 5
Pac Ten 5
6. ACC 4

And finally the ultimate measure of success is number of championships. Here are the number of national championships by conference since 2000.

1. ACC 5
2. SEC 2
Big East 2
4. Big Twelve 1
Big Ten 1

In Summary, the tournament has been dominated by the Big 6 (BCS) Conferences since 2000. No team outside of those conferences has won a National Championship in that time frame although Memphis and Butler came very close. In addition, the SEC and Pacific Ten have performed well below the other four conferences in almost every category (except for Florida's two National Championships).