As a basketball fan, have you ever wondered why ESPN, Fox Sports and other media outlets talk so much during the college basketball season about how many teams a particular conference is going to put into the NCAA Tournament? Sure, we all know there are bragging rights, of a sort, on the line between conferences, but from a basketball analysts perspective, doesn’t it seem much more likely that they would be trying to figure out who is better between Duke and Syracuse as opposed to how many teams the Big East is putting in the tournament versus the ACC?
Ah, but there is a reason, but since the analysts have forgotten (or never realized) that the reason the number of teams is important isn’t common knowledge at all, they never mention it.
As usual, it is all about the money.
Conference payouts from the NCAA Tournament is based on ‘money units’, a term that can be described as every game played by a conference team. So every time a team wins and plays another game, the conference earns another money unit. This system means that if a team gets an NCAA bid, that brings in one money unit to the conference even if the team gets bounced in the first round. It also means that winning the title brings in no money units. In other words, the ACC had already made all of the money it was going to as soon as Duke advanced to the NCAA championship game this year.
The payouts also have a component that calculates a large chunk of the money based on the past six years performance. That means the ACC will benefit in next year’s payout from the 2005 and 2009 runs of UNC and the 2010 run of Duke. It also attempts to prevent single game losses have a larger effect on year to year payouts.
So who’s the top dog when it comes to money made from this method? Not surprisingly, it’s still the ACC, and despite what analysts have tried to tell fans about the league being down, the ACC has dominated the money rankings for a long (as in decades) time. But it’s not really surprising when you consider that the ACC has won 10 of the last 29 NCAA titles. Yes, the ACC is still the king of college basketball, just as the SEC is the king of college football. In fact, it’s even more impressive when you consider that unlike college football, there actually is a playoff that the ACC has to win through in order to garner that gaudy 34.4% of the national titles stat. In fact, only twice since 1978 has the ACC gone back to back years without at least one team in the Final Four. Sure, UNC was a powerhouse during that entire stretch, but consider that NC State, Duke and Maryland also won titles and Georgia Tech made a Final Four appearance as well. And the NCAA tournament makes more money for television networks than any other sport and you understand the magnitude of what the ACC has managed to do, and you also see why the NCAA is so keen on adding games.