Is It Profitable to Fade the Conferences with the Most March Madness Teams?


Every year in March, college basketball athletes wait hopefully in front of a TV to learn if they will represent their school in the NCAA tournament. For the last three years, the selections have resulted in conferences having more representatives than others. Looking back, the conferences with the most teams in the tournament, underperform with respect to the conferences with fewer selected teams.

A reason for this could be a result of a snowball effect of overvaluing teams in the conference. When one of those teams takes a loss, instead of the losing team being devalued, the winning team moves up in the eyes of the selection committee. Over the last few years, fewer and fewer teams from mid-majors and low-majors have been given the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament, which means that we have seen a lot of mediocre power conference teams in play. While those teams carry bigger names and larger athletic departments, they don’t always bring more success to the tournament table.

Analyzing the conferences with the highest number of teams selected from the Big East, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac 12 for the NCAA tournament since 2015 confirms that these conferences perform poorly. If one seeds are excluded, the conferences combined to go 38-46 (45%) straight up.

Conference # of Teams Record Excluding #1 Seeds
Big 12 7 3-7
Big Ten 7 7-6
Total 14 10-13 (43%)
Conference # of Teams Record Excluding #1 Seeds
Big 12 7 1-6
Pac-12 7 6-6
Big Ten 7 7-7
Total 21 14-19 (42%)
Conference # of Teams Record Excluding #1 Seeds
Big Ten 8 9-8
ACC 7 5-6
Total 15 14-14 (50%)

The initial reaction to seeing a conference that has the most representatives is to overvalue the teams. Often times the lower seeds of the conference get in for wins against the top seeds. Those top seeds might be inconsistent during the long college basketball season allowing the lower seeded teams to bolster their resume.

Based on the performance in the last three years, I will be looking for spots to fade these teams, not just straight up, but against the spread as well. This year I will be looking extra carefully to fade some of the lower seeded ACC and SEC teams.

Conference # of Teams Record Excluding #1 Seeds
Total 17 TBD