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Picking A March Madness Winner – Conference Mayhem Infographic

March Madness’ Selection Sunday is finally here and bracket-panic is setting in for most college hoops fans. is here to help. March Madness has evolved in the 29 years since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and the tournament strength of the so-called power conferences has shifted as well.

The ACC and Big East are historically the conferences to put your March Madness betting dollars, with the Big Ten not far behind. Which conference will 2015’s March Madness winner come from? Keep reading.

Picking The 2015 College Hoops March Madness Champion – Which Conference Will The 2015 Men’s College Basketball Winner Come From

Picking A March Madness Winner

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Conferences Run Down

With March quickly approaching so will the madness that is the NCAA Tournament. At this point, we don’t necessarily know which teams will end up with the number one seeds and which teams are on the bubble to get into the biggest betting event of the year after the Super Bowl. Since it’s so difficult to predict, why not let history lead the way?

The NCAA Tournament has been surprisingly consistent over the years. From 1985 to 2013, the year that the huge underdog Villanova Wildcats upset Big East rival Georgetown to win the championship, two conferences have dominated, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has won 271 total NCAA Tournament games since 1985. What’s even more impressive is that the ACC hasn’t won less than 5 games in any single NCAA Tournament since 2003. The average games won by the conference has been 8.2 games per season. There’s a caveat to that, though. In 2004 the ACC won 14 games and in 2005, the ACC won 12 games. Since 2011, the ACC hasn’t won more than 7 games. The conference won 6 games in 2012 and 6 games in 2013.

There’s a good chance that the ACC wins closer to 12 games in this year’s NCAA Tournament than the 8.2 average. First, the ACC is projected to produce two #1 seeds, the Duke Blue Devils and the Virginia Cavaliers. The ACC is also projected to produce two #3 seeds in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Duke and Virginia, if they do acquire number one seeds should both, based on history get to at least the Sweet 16. Duke can win the National Championship because they have two of the best players in the nation, both freshmen, in point-guard Tyus Young and center Jahlil Okafor. After throwing in Justise Wilson and Quinn Cook, Duke might possibly have the formula to win the title this season. They did in 2010.

Both Duke and Virginia could very well make it to the Final Four and possibly play each other on Championship Monday. With 3 seeds, North Carolina and Notre Dame should have a decent shot to get to the Sweet 16, if not further, as well. There’s a possibility that 2 other ACC teams could make it to the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina State has beaten both Duke and Louisville. They’re more on the bubble right now, but another victory against a Top 20 team and the selection committee would have to put them into the tournament. Louisville is projected to get a fourth seed. The Cardinals play defense that could help them go a long way in the NCAA Tournament.


The Big East is one game behind the ACC in most wins in the NCAA Tournament at 270. Although the Big East isn’t likely to garner a number one seed in this year’s tourney, they should have a 2 seed in Villanova who finds ways to win. Check out their recent victory over Butler for proof. Butler is in. Georgetown is in. Both should play well, but getting anything close to 13 victories in the NCAA Tournament, like what the Big East did in 2011, 202 and 2013, is a dream. Connecticut, the defending champions, are no longer in the Big East. Cincinnati isn’t either. Neither is Syracuse nor is Louisville. Louisville’s victories will now go to the ACC while Connecticut’s and Cincinnati’s will go to the American Conference.

Xavier is a Big East team that some feel will get as high as a 9 seed. Providence is projected as high as a 6 seed by some since it has been coming on lately while St. John’s is anywhere from a 9 to a 10 to an 11 or even 12 depending on who’s creating the bracket. Still, securing 6 Big East bids, Georgetown, Xavier, Providence, St. John’s, Butler and Villanova from a conference with only 10 teams, is awfully good. Unfortunately, outside of Butler and Villanova, none of the other Big East teams appear capable of producing a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. 

After the Big East and ACC, it’s the Big Ten, which produced 245 NCAA Tournament victories from 1985 to 2013. The Big Ten has a legitimate National Championship contender in Wisconsin. The Badgers play as well together as any group of players in the nation. They boast a Player of the Year award candidate in Frank Kaminsky and will have Traevon Jackson, their star guard in the Final Four run from a year ago, back in time for the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin is a balanced squad that not only plays defense but can run in transition or slow it down when needed. They’re for real.

The other team in the Big Ten that could make some noise is Ohio State. The Buckeyes also have a legitimate Player of the Year candidate in freshman guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell is averaging 19 points a game, 5.8 boards and 5.5 assists per matchup. The NCAA Tournament is where the top players usually show their stuff. Just like Jahlil Okafor at Duke, Russell figures to be a huge part of the tournament this season. Okafor, Russell, and possibly Stanley Johnson at Arizona are all freshman players that could show up big time during the tournament. Each has the ability to be this year’s Danny Manning who led Kansas to an upset victory over Oklahoma in 1988.

Speaking of Kansas and Oklahoma, both hail from the Big 12, which won only 128 NCAA Tournament games from 1985 to 2013. But, the best program in the Big 12, arguably one of the Top 3 to 5 in all of college basketball, the Kansas Jayhawks has won 2 championships since 1985, in 1988 and 2008. The Jayhawks are predicted to be a 2 seed in most basketball analyst’s bracket predictions. Oklahoma is projected to be a 4 seed. There are 5 other teams from the Big 12 that are expected to make it into the NCAA Tournament:  Baylor, a projected 5 seed, West Virginia, a projected 8 seed, and Iowa State, a projected 3 seed and one of the favorites from the Big 12. Oklahoma State and Texas at this point are also projected to garner bids to the NCAA Tournament with Oklahoma State receiving the highest bid, anywhere from a 5 to a 7, while Texas is projected as 7 in most brackets.

How well is the Big 12 expected to do in the tournament?  The Big 12 only won 3 NCAA Tournament games in 2013. Although every team appears capable of winning in the tournament, not a single one, not even Kansas, has the balanced team that seems capable of a Final Four bid.

In addition to the Big 12 underperforming badly, there’s no guarantee that the other team projected to send 7 squads to the NCAA Tournament will do any better. Wisconsin and Ohio State are potential star programs. But, the Big Ten is also expected to send Michigan State, anywhere from a 7 to 9 based on  most bracket prognosticators and Illinois, who some bracketologist’s believe will have to participate in one of the “play-in” basketball games before the Round of 32 on Thursday. After Illinois, Indiana is projected as a 7 seed while Iowa by some accounts is a bubble team but by other accounts is a 9 seed. Maryland, a former ACC power house, is now playing in the Big Ten. Maryland is projected as a 5 seed but depending on the Big Ten Tournament could climb as high as a 3 seed. Maryland, due to its history, might be a surprise team from the Big Ten in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The other power conference that could seriously surprise during March Madness is the SEC. Kentucky is undefeated and most likely will go into the NCAA Tournament undefeated, but the rest of the teams penciled in to the tourney from the SEC have good shots at making deeper runs than expected. LSU, in particular, has a loaded front line. The Tigers have surprised in the past with Cinderella type runs in the tournament. Arkansas won the tournament in 1994. They have the history to upset the apple cart as a 7 seed in this year’s tourney while Georgia is projected as an 8 seed on many brackets.

The power conference that might be horribly under represented is the Pac-12. Even though the Pac won more games than the Big 12 in the NCAA Tournament from 1985, 147 to 128, only Arizona, who could garner a #1 or #2 seed depending on what happens with West Coast Conference power Gonzaga from here until the selection committee makes their picks, UCLA, who some believe will end up in a play-in game, Stanford, an 11 seed in most brackets and Utah, a 3 seed. As with the SEC, basketball handicappers need to pay attention to every single one of the Pac-12 teams. Arizona almost always makes it to at least the Sweet 16 and has been making runs to the Elite Eight since Sean Miller took over as coach. Stanford, with former Duke great Johnny Dawkins calling the shots, could be the prime 11 seed to upset a 5 should they get the double-ones, UCLA is the most successful basketball program in the history of college hoops, while Utah has one of those Danny Manning-esque players in Delon Wright.

Gonzaga is the one team from a non-power five conference that should garner a #1 or #2 seed and should make it to at least the Elite Eight. Both Wichita State and Northern Iowa, from the Missouri Valley, should garner a 5 or 7 seed. There are no real historical numbers on the Missouri Valley Conference, but Northern Iowa can play any style of basketball and their defense is absolutely suffocating. The Panthers could be a surprise.

Also, watch out for the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the American Conference. SMU dominated Connecticut recently and looks to be the strongest team in the conference. The Mustangs are coached by the venerable Larry Brown who (is there a pattern here?) was the man behind Kansas’ Danny and the Miracles stunning victory over Oklahoma inn 1988.

Bubble Watch – First Four In and First Four Out

The biggest heart break on mot First Four Out lists is Miami. The Hurricanes now play in the ACC, though. So, they do have a shot to make it but a lot has changed since their terrific victory over Duke at Cameron Indoor way back in mid-January. The ‘Canes garnered a Top 15 ranking after the victory over the Blue Devils. Now? They might not even get a bid.

The other of the First Four Out figure to be Oregon, whom plays in the Pac-12, which means that they’re probably out for sure based on history, Boise State, who has no shot of making it to the NCAA Tournament unless they get an automatic bid by winning their conference tournament, and either Purdue or Iowa. Iowa could get locked out if Purdue goes deeper in the Big Ten Tournament and vice versa.

Tulsa, who plays in the American Conference with Cincinnati, SMU and Connecticut is on many First Four In lists. NC State is considered a bubble team by many, but they have to be on the First Four In list after beating both Duke and Louisville, two Top 10 teams, on the road. Plus, they play in the ACC. LSU is a bubble team to many. They should have beaten the #1 team in the nation, Kentucky, though, and have one of the best players in the country, Jameel Mackey playing for them. LSU should be in. The real First Four In team after Tulsa is Colorado State. The Rams figure to take away Boise State’s position from the Mountain West.

Based on history, there you have it! The SEC and Pac-12 will produce surprise teams after Kentucky and Arizona respectively, while the Big Ten and Big 12 could produce disappointments.