By: Brandon Fuhs
It’s that time of year again, when the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and millions of Americans will be glued to their televisions to watch the NCAA tournament. The tournament is arguably the biggest event in all of college sports, but the madness began before the teams in the tournaments were even announced.
The conference tournaments began in early March, when 324 colleges are given the opportunity to claim of the 68 spots in the NCAA tournament. There are 31 automatic bids that go to conference tournament champions, and 37 at-large bids given to the top teams that did not win their respective conference tournaments. These 37 spots don’t come easy, especially when upsets happen in the conference tournaments. Six of the top seven teams in the country according to the AP poll, Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, and Ohio State each lost in their conference tournament. This only reduces the window of opportunity for teams on the bubble.
With every NCAA tournament, there are heartbreaks, surprises, and upsets. This year, Washington University (Pac 12) becomes the first team ever in the six power conferences: Pac 12, SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, and Big East, to win their conference in the regular season and not make the NCAA tournament. Missouri is the first team in a power conference to win 30 games and not have a 1 seed in the tournament. Missouri also has 22 wins in the NCAA tournament without reaching the final four, which is the most in all of college basketball.
On a lighter note, Harvard, which is the 12 seed in the East bracket made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946, setting a school record with 26 wins this season. Murray State, the 6 seed in the West bracket, also set a school record with a 30-1 record, starting off the season 23-0.
The conference breakdown for the power conferences is the following: Big East 10, Big Ten 6, Big 12 6, ACC 5, SEC 5, Pac 12 2. . The West bracket looks to be the strongest in the pool, led by 1 seed Michigan State, followed by Missouri, Marquette, and Louisville respectively. The West bracket’s overall winning percentage is .784, which leads over the other three brackets. The East’s winning percentage is .756, the Midwest’s is .735, the South’s is .732. The winner looks like it should come out of the West, whether it is a powerhouse team representing them in the final four or not, the team from the West bracket will have a lot of momentum going into the final four due to the depth of good teams in the bracket.