Eli Boettger | @boettger_eli | 03/02/2020
Conference tournament play is finally here.
The Atlantic Sun, Big South, Horizon League and Patriot League will all tip off their league tournaments on Tuesday, setting the stage for 13 straight days of conference tournament action.
If you’ve ever wondered about how top seeds perform in their brackets or which leagues are the most prone to upsets, you came to the right place.
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No. 1 seeds
How often would you guess that a No. 1 seed wins its conference tournament? Maybe 60 or 65 percent of the time?
The following numbers may surprise you.
Since 2010, top-seeded teams have won their respective conference tournaments just 41.4 percent of the time. That’s still a much higher percentage than No. 2 seeds (24.6 percent), but nowhere near the number many seem to anticipate.
Since 2010, four teams that won their respective conference tournaments seeded 5th or worse have advanced to the Final Four.
The UConn “Cardiac Kemba” Huskies cut down the nets in 2011 after entering the Big East tournament as a No. 9 seed. UConn, of course, won five games in five days at Madison Square Garden and then proceeded to win six more in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed.
Among the other four are 2012 Louisville (national semifinalist, Big East No. 7 seed), 2018 Michigan (national runner-up, Big Ten No. 5 seed) and 2019 Auburn (national semifinalist, SEC No. 5 seed).
Because several of these lower-seeded teams are coming from smaller conferences, their NCAA Tournament seeds provide a daunting task. As a result, 17 of the 33 conference tournament champs seeded 5th or worse entered March Madness as either a No. 15 or No. 16 seed.
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If you’re looking for chaos, tune in to the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Since 2010, teams seeded No. 4 or worse have won three times as many A-10 tournament titles as No. 1 seeds (six championships to two). Last year, sixth-seeded Saint Louis took home the crown after defeating No. 11 Richmond, No. 3 Dayton, No. 2 Davidson and No. 4 St. Bonaventure in four consecutive days. It marked the sixth consecutive year a team seeded third or worse won the A-10 tournament.
A handful of conferences have also featured low-seeded winners. A total of 11 conferences have had a team seeded 7th or worse win the league tournament since 2010.
There are six conferences in particular that lack the type of chaos that some of the aforementioned leagues have experienced: The Big Sky, Ivy League, WAC, Colonial, SoCon and WCC all have an average seed winner of less than 2.0 and no team seeded third or worse win it all since 2010. The WCC is the only conference that has had either a No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed winner in each of its last 10 tournaments.
Eli Boettger is a college basketball writer and founder of HeatCheckCBB.com. He has previously worked for Sporting News, DAZN and USA TODAY SMG.
Boettger’s content has been featured by Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, FiveThirtyEight, Yahoo Sports, Athletic Director University, Washington Post, Illinois Law Review and Notre Dame Law Review, among other publications. Boettger is also a current USBWA member.