We already know teams from mid-major conferences don’t win the NCAA Tournament. More than that, though, we can set a minimum conference strength for a team to have a shot at winning it all.
I use my team ratings to calculate a conference rating on a 0-1 scale. For the past 18 tournaments (going back to 2003), the champ came from a conference with a rating of at least 0.81.
The champ with the lowest conference rating was 2014 Connecticut, who won as a 2-seed. The only other champ from a conference with a rating below 0.9 was 2016 Villanova (conference rating: 0.85).
2022 Teams From Conferences That are “Too Weak”
The teams this year that would be legit contenders if not for their weak-sauce conferences:
- Gonzaga (0.66)
- Arizona (0.74)
- Duke (0.69)
- Villanova (0.78)
- UCLA (0.74)
- Houston (0.70)
But hey, just because it hasn’t happened in 19 years, doesn’t mean it can’t happen this year. Also, 0.81 may not be the true minimum. The Big East’s rating is close. Maybe Villanova still has a shot. Is the Pac-12’s rating of 0.74 too far off? Maybe Arizona or UCLA could set a new threshold. It could happen, but there’s definitely cause for concern.
2022 Teams From Conferences That are “Strong Enough”
There are only three conferences this year whose ratings meet the 0.81 threshold: Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC. Using this criterion, our contender list is narrowed to these six:
- Texas Tech
*Iowa is in a strong conference and meets all of the other statistical criteria, but they’re currently projected as a 6-seed in the Bracket Matrix. They’d have to earn a 3-seed, before I felt good about labeling them a solid contender. I’m not sure that’s possible, even if they win the Big Ten tournament.
How small is the field of contenders now after these last few crazy days?
What a week! It depends on your criteria, but one could say the top tier contender list is down to Kansas, Purdue, Texas Tech, and Kentucky.
Tier 2 (would have to buck a strong trend to win it all): Baylor, Villanova, UCLA, Arizona, Duke, Iowa, Gonzaga, and Auburn