Which Conference Gets The Most Team Into March Madness?

With March just around the corner, there is no better time than now to start taking a look at those March Madness brackets. While the individual selections and pairings have yet to be announced, the experts have already started breaking down the teams that will hear their names called on Selection Sunday.

In this article, we are going to do some Bracketology and determine how many teams from each league will make their way into the madness. Unlike most Bracketologists that project what the seeds and selections would be if the season ended right now, we will project out a little further and use our sharp betting expertise to predict the outcomes of games in the last couple of weeks of the regular season, and tell you what the bracket will really look like in March!

Multi-Bid Leagues

The way the NCAA tournament is structured is that the winner of each conference tournament gets an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. That means the winners of each of the thirty-two leagues won’t have to worry about getting picked by the Selection Committee. For some leagues like the ACC or the Big 10, that is a formality most of the time, as a team good enough to win the league title, will also almost certainly be getting an at-large bid anyway.

But for some of the smaller leagues in the nation, the only team that ever get in the tournament are the winners of the conference tournament. Leagues like the Colonial, the SOCON, and the Summit never get multiple bids. That makes their conference tournaments basically their entire season, at least when it comes to down to which teams will be playing in the tournament.

For the sake of this article, we will only focus on the leagues that I think are going to get multiple bids this year. Sorry in advance to the Ohio Valley, Big Sky, and SWAC, at-large bids are about the big boys of college basketball, you guys gotta sit this one out.

The one exception will be any league that I think has a team that is a lock to make the tournament even if they get upset in their respective conference tournament. Think of San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs are 26-0, even if they slip up, they are getting in. So, if they manage to end up coming up short in the MWC tournament, that league changes from a one-bid league into a two-bid league. Let’s get started!

Big Ten

This could be a very easy article to write. The Big 10 is going to end up getting the most teams in the NCAA tournament this year. That is a fact. The Big 10 has more talent top to bottom than any league in the country and depending on who you listen to, they could get as many as eleven teams in the tournament.

But as I mentioned earlier, that is assuming the season ends now, it doesn’t, these teams will continue to butt heads for the next several weeks, and some teams are going to drop out of the mix in my estimation.

Locks

Maryland, Penn State, Iowa, Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State.
The Big 10 has eight teams that seem to be locks at this point. Even if these teams lose out, they will likely still make the cut based on their full body of work this year. The one team that sticks out to me here as a team that could slide into the bubble category by the end of the season, is Michigan State.

The Spartans are playing bad basketball right now as they have lost four out of their last five games. After starting out 5-0 in league play, they have now lost six out of their last ten. And when you look forward on the schedule, they have road games at Maryland and Penn State, two teams that already beat them at home, and home games against Iowa and Ohio State, two solid teams. Tom Izzo needs to win one or two of those games to ensure they don’t get left out of the madness.

On The Bubble

Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana
The bubble of the Big 10 is where I tend to disagree with many of the so-called experts. I think Wisconsin is likely in the tournament as they have wins over Maryland, Penn State, and Ohio State. And when you look at their last six games of the season, they have four home games, where they have been nearly unbeatable. And the two road games are winnable as well, against Indiana and Michigan. The Badgers are likely dancing.

But I think that is where things end for the Big 10. Some Bracketologists have the Big 10 getting as many as eleven teams into the tournament, but I cut them off at nine. Purdue just has too many losses, in my opinion. Yes, I respect the fact that they have played a brutal schedule, but they have a losing record in league play, and I see them losing three out of their last five games. That puts them at 16-15 overall, and I think they get left out.

The same can be said for Minnesota and Indiana. They both have some nice wins, and the committee likes teams that can beat quality teams. The only saving grace for these two teams is that they play each other twice in the last three weeks of the regular season. If one of them can sweep those games, they could push the other team off the bubble and sneak into the tournament.

The Longshots

Northwestern, Nebraska
Only Northwestern and Nebraska aren’t already mentioned, and they both would have to win the Big 10 conference tournament to make it into the field of sixty-eight, and that just isn’t going to happen.

How Many Get In? 9

Big East

The Big East is a very quality league, and in my opinion, very underrated. They don’t have a single team that is outside of the top-80 on kenpom, and every single league wins this year was hard-earned.

Locks

Seton Hall, Creighton, Villanova, Marquette, Butler, Xavier
This tier is pretty much rock solid for the Big East. The only team that could slide down a little bit would be Xavier. The Musketeers have six games left on the schedule and probably need to win at least two of them to feel good about themselves. That being said, the home game against DePaul is very winnable, as well as at St John’s, Providence, and Georgetown, the Musketeers will do enough to get into the field.

On The Bubble

Georgetown, Providence
The Hoyas absolutely had to have their recent win over Butler on the road, and that win likely punched their ticket. I only drop them into the bubble category as the full body of work is fairly light, as they didn’t have a single top-50 in non-conference play. For PC, the Friars need a strong finish to get in. They play at Georgetown in their next game, and a win on the road against the Hoyas would be huge. After that, three out of their last four games are at home, if they can protect their home floor in two of those, they are in.

The Longshots

St John’s, DePaul
It wasn’t that long ago that the Big East had a shot at getting the entire league into the tournament. But the wear and tear of the conference has gotten the best of both St John’s and DePaul. The Red Storm has lost nine out of their last twelve games, and their remaining schedule is really nasty with games against Seton Hall, Villanova, and Butler all coming on the road, that they just aren’t going to win. DePaul would need to win the Big East tournament to make it in as they have been awful in league play with a 1-11 record in the Big East.

How Many Get in? 7

Big 12

The Big 12 is very top-heavy this season with three teams that could make a run to the Final Four and a lot of teams on the bubble.

Locks

Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia, Texas Tech
These guys are all in no matter what. Kansas and Baylor could both end up on the one line.

On The Bubble

Oklahoma, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State
I only see the Sooners emerging from this group as a tournament team. Texas and TCU both fell apart in the last month, and while Oklahoma State showed some signs of life by beating Texas Tech at home in their last game, it is likely too little too late for the Cowboys. OK State has road games at West Virginia and Kansas, and if they can win one of those, they have a shot, but they aren’t going to be able to, so they are out.

The Longshots

Iowa State, Kansas State
Both of these teams have losing records overall, and their remaining schedules tell me that is going to be how they finish. Barring either team winning the Big 12 tournament, the Wildcats and the Cyclones are out.

How Many Get In? 5

ACC

What a strange league the ACC has been this year. Even some of the perennial powerhouses have been struggling this season, I am looking at you North Carolina and Syracuse, and the league has a lot of mediocre teams this year.

Locks

Duke, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia
Only four locks for the ACC? Usually, this league competes to get four teams in the Sweet 16, not the field of sixty-eight. But it is a down year for the ACC in terms of top to bottom talent. That being said, Duke, Florida State, and Louisville need to be on your shortlist for the Final Four. In the ACC this year the contenders are few, but mighty.

On The Bubble

NC State, Syracuse, Clemson, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh
This is another spot that I differ from many of the experts. I like a couple of these teams to make it into the tournament. Most notably, NC State and Clemson. NC State has a winning league record, and with games against Boston College, Pittsburgh, Wake Forrest, and North Carolina still on the schedule, I think they finish above .500 in the league, and that gets them into the tournament.

For Clemson, this is a bit of a stretch as the Tigers are just 13-12 overall. But they have two of the best wins of any team in the nation when they beat Duke and Louisville, and the committee loves to reward teams that have elite-level victories. And when you look at what is left on the schedule, they could easily finish 4-1. That puts them at 17-13 overall, and 11-9 in the ACC, the Tigers, go dancing.

The Longshots

Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Boston College, Miami, Wake Forrest
I was really tempted to put North Carolina into the bubble group now that Cole Anthony is back on the floor. But the fact of the matter is, that even though this team is greatly improved with their star freshman back in the fold, they are 0-5 since his return.

How Many Get In? 6

SEC

After emerging as a truly elite basketball program in the last couple of years, the SEC took a step back this year.

Locks

Kentucky, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Mississippi State
Kentucky, Auburn, and LSU are all strongly in the lock category, but I think both Florida and Mississippi State have both done enough to get in as well. The Bulldogs are the shakiest of the group, but they have a soft finish to the schedule and could run the table.

On The Bubble

South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi
I think Alabama gets into the tournament. They have wins over Auburn and LSU, as well as nice wins in the non-conference against Furman, Stephen F Austin, and Richmond. I left then in the bubble category as they need a strong finish, but with a remaining schedule that doesn’t feature a single team currently projected to make the NCAA tournament, I think that is just what they will get.

The Longshots

Georgia, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M,
I hate that we aren’t going to be able to see Georgia superstar freshman Anthony Edwards in the NCAA tournament in what is very likely to be his only season of college ball, but the Bulldogs are out.

How Many Get In? 6

Pac-12

Many bracketologists are high on the Pac-12, I’m not. This league is light up top, squishy in the middle, and awful at the bottom.

Locks

Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona State, USC
The sleeper team here is USC. Okongwu is a beast that can take over a game, and they have the veteran leadership to go with him to make a deep run. Oregon, Arizona, and Colorado all have aspirations of deep runs, but I feel like all three of them are a bit overrated right now. Arizona State has caught fire, and nobody wants to have to try and stop Remy Martin in the tournament.

On The Bubble

Stanford, Washington, UCLA, Utah, Oregon State
While I list each of these teams as bubble teams, I don’t think any of them end up in the field. Stanford completely fell apart after a 15-2 start, and they are done. And while Oregon State has more talent than their record shows, they just don’t have the wins to get in. Washington? Yeah, they somehow found a way to have a roster with two lottery picks on it, and still be bad. Is Lorenzo Romar still coaching in Seattle?

The Longshots

Washington State, Cal
Both of these teams have done an admirable job of winning at home, but they aren’t close to dancing.

How Many Get In? 5

The Best Of The Rest

In this final section, we will look at the rest of the teams outside of the power six conferences. There a couple of multi-bid leagues in here, including the A-10, the AAC, and the WCC.

Locks

Gonzaga, San Diego State, BYU, St. Mary’s, Houston, Cincinnati, Wichita State, Memphis, Dayton, Rhode Island, Richmond
The American is likely the most underrated of the smaller conferences as they have some legit teams in the league this year. And the WCC looks to get three bids this season as the league was much better than most people expected.

On The Bubble

St Bonaventure, Duquesne, VCU, Saint Louis, Tulsa, SMU, UCONN, Utah State, Northern Iowa, Liberty, East Tennessee State, Furman, UNC Greensboro, Vermont
Many of these teams are heavily favored to win their league tournament, so they may not need an at-large bid. But these are the types of teams that could be bid stealers if they don’t win their leagues auto-bid. All of the middle of the pack teams from the power six are rooting for teams like East Tennessee State, Furman, and Liberty to win their league tournament and keep as many at-large bids available as possible.

How Many Get In? 14 (depending on league tournament results)

Wrap Up

Why is it important to start looking at leagues and teams now, a full month before Selection Sunday? Well, the guys that do their homework in February get paid in March. Getting these teams on your radar now and watching how they finish out the season is going to be a huge advantage for you when the tournament comes, and you start filling out your bracket. Thanks for reading and good luck betting college basketball the rest of the way out!

Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL