Filling Out Your Bracket: Use Conference Tendencies for the Final Four

Brett LissendenSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2008

This article is part of a series of articles that uses historical trends in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament to provide advice for predicting future results.  Recent trends will be the most heavily considered, namely from 2000 to the present.  Other articles can be viewed from the links in the archives section at the bottom of the page.


In the nine NCAA tournaments played in the current decade, the six major conferences have accounted for 34 of the 36 Final Four teams.  The only two teams to qualify for the Final Four outside of the ACC, Big Ten, Big East, SEC, Big 12, and Pac-10 were George Mason from the CAA in 2006 and Memphis from Conference USA in 2008.

So when you are filling out your bracket for March Madness, the safest bet is to have all of your Final Four teams from the top six conferences.

Furthermore, since the 2000 NCAA tournament, the following are the average number of teams each major conference has placed in the Final Four per year.

1) ACC: .889

2) Big Ten: .778

3) Big 12: .667

4) Big East: .556

T-5) SEC: .444

T-5) Pac-10: .444

An ACC team has been in the Final Four in six of the nine NCAA tournaments this decade.

The Big East averages 6.89 teams making the tournament each year during the 2000s, whereas no other conference averages more than 5.44 qualifying teams.  However, the Big East does not have the highest number of teams qualifying for the Final Four on average.

Therefore, quantity does not imply quality.  Just because a conference has more teams in the NCAA tournament does not mean that conference will have more teams in the Final Four.

Also notice that seven of the last nine Final Fours have featured two teams from one conference, and one of those even featured two teams from two conferences.  In 2003 the Big 12 (Kansas and Texas) and the Big East (Syracuse and Marquette) both had two teams in the Final Four.

No conference has ever had more than three Final Four representatives in one season, at least in this decade.

Out of the eight different times a conference has had two teams in the Final Four this decade, it has been the ACC twice, the Big Ten twice, the Big 12 twice, the Big East once, and the SEC once.

However, both of the two most recent NCAA tournaments had four teams from four different conferences.  This is most likely coincidence, but it does provide some question as to whether this trend of multiple teams from one conference being in the Final Four is changing.

In summary, for when you are picking your Final Four teams:

  • Pick only teams from the six major conferences.
  • Pick at least one ACC team.
  • The four conferences most commonly represented in the Final Four, in order from most to least, are the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East.
  • Don’t pick teams from a specific conference just because that conference has a lot of teams in the tournament.
  • Know that two teams from the same conference usually make the Final Four, but be careful when choosing which conference.



Seeds Making the Final Four

Cinderellas to the Elite Eight and Beyond

"Easy" First Round Picks

Make or Break First Round Picks

Tough First Round Picks

No. 1 and No. 2 Seeds in the Second Round

Other Second Round Games

The Sweet Sixteen

The Elite Eight

The Final Four