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College Basketball Betting: How NCAA Tournament Winners Fare in Conference Tournaments


For college basketball’s truly elite, conference tournaments don’t mean much compared to the Big Dance. Yes, a team that heading into the postseason that has the profile of a no. 3 seed, can potentially jump up to a no. 2 or even a no. 1. Most coaches would say that the “juice would be worth the squeeze” in that instance. And the data certainly supports that as 21 National Champions have been no. 1 seeds whereas 13 were no. 2 or lower since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. But I still believe that coaches who know their teams are in NCAA Tournament view this as just another week of basketball. To test this theory, I went back the last 15 years and tracked what each NCAA Tournament winner did in their respective conference tournament.

Year – National Champion (Conference Tournament Record)

2018 – Villanova (3-0)
2017 – North Carolina (1-1)
2016 – Villanova (2-1)
2015 – Duke (1-1)
2014 – UConn (2-1)
2013 – Louisville (3-0)
2012 – Kentucky (2-1)
2011 – UConn (5-0)
2010 – Duke (3-0)
2009 – North Carolina (1-1)
2008 – Kansas (3-0)
2007 – Florida (3-0)
2006 – Florida (3-0)
2005 – North Carolina (1-1)
2004 – UConn (3-0)

Of the 15 winners, eight won their respective conference tournaments. I did find it interesting that not one team bowed out in their first game. That perhaps suggests that teams do in fact “care” but most if not all of those teams were favored, sometimes heavily, in that first game. North Carolina stood out as the Tar Heels went 1-1 in the ACC Tournament each of their three NCAA title seasons. UNC did win the 2016 ACC Tournament and lost on a last second shot to Villanova in the Big Dance so it’s unlikely Roy Williams looks at the this week as a waste of time. In the end, for the truly elite, I don’t think how they fare in conference tournaments has any bearing on how they will perform in the Big Dance. Remember, with the exception of UConn’s remarkable run in 2011 (the Huskies won 14 games in 28 days, a feat that may never be duplicated) the most these teams are playing is three games in three days and then four or five days of rest and an inferior opponent in the first round (with the exception of UMBC!). The thing to look for — and this is a project for another day — is how power conference at-large teams fare that got into the Big Dance based solely on their conference tournament performance. It’s different for mid-majors as most are done well in advance whereas a deep conference tourney run for a power conference bubble team could mean as many as four games. And with the potential for a “play-in game” draw, then you have the potential for an empty tank. In conclusion, for the teams that legitimately have a shot to cut down the nets come April, how they fare this week really doesn’t matter. It’s just another game(s).

Andrew Lange

With significant market influence, Andrew Lange has produced a decade-long 58% winning rate on over 750 selections in college basketball. Using a low volume, high return approach, Lange's results in the NFL have been equally impressive with a 61% mark and over +49 units of profit on a 1, 1.5, and 2-unit scale since 2012.