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March Madness Update: Conference Breakdown

Surprises, Disappointments in Sweet 16 Field

Big Ten, SEC Fall Flat

Pretty much from the time the first shot passes through the rim, the debate gets rolling about which conference is the top dog in the world of major college basketball.

Those debates don’t usually end until the champion in the March Madness bracket is determined, and this year it will probably not be any different.

March Madness Update: Conference Breakdown
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/AFP

With the field down to 16 teams, what better time to look at how the top conferences have fared in the NCAA men’s Division I tournament so far with the focus on the conferences receiving at least three bids.

Gonzaga (+225) remains the favorite to win the national title. The question is which team is going to emerge to challenge the Zags.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Teams in March Madness bracket: Duke, Miami, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

Teams remaining: Duke (+1400 odds to win the national championship), Miami (+8000), North Carolina (+2800).

NCAA tournament record: 8-2

Record against the spread: 8-2

Biggest surprise: The March Madness predictions had the underdog Miami Hurricanes going out against Southern California in the first round, and the thought of Miami winning by 18 against SEC regular-season champion Auburn seemed like an impossibility. However, Miami joins Duke and North Carolina as the other ACC teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament.


Biggest disappointment: It is pretty hard to pick a disappointing team considering that people were piling on the ACC as a league where Duke was the only team guaranteed to make the March Madness field. With the best winning percentage among the conferences, maybe the ACC wasn’t as horrible as some might have suggested.

Top storyline: Miami’s run to the regionals has made for great theater, but this is all about retiring Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final NCAA Tournament. It will be leading the telecast in every game Duke plays the rest of the way.

Big East

Teams in March Madness bracket: Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, UConn, Villanova

Teams remaining: Providence (+7500 to win the national championship), Villanova (+1200).

NCAA tournament record: 5-4

Record against the spread: 6-3

Biggest surprise: Providence wins the Rodney Dangerfield Award for the team getting no respect. The Friars lost to Creighton by 27 points in the Big East tourney semifinals and when they got a No. 4 seed, more than a few people voiced their displeasure and distrust in Providence’s chances in the NCAAs. The Friars were pushed by South Dakota in the opener before rolling past Richmond to advance to the Sweet 16.

Biggest disappointment: Marquette and UConn share this honor. That Marquette lost to North Carolina in the first round of the tournament wasn’t totally stunning, but a 32-point loss as a four-point underdog according to the college basketball spreads is hard to defend. UConn seemed to have all the pieces to make a deep run in the tournament but couldn’t figure out how to stop New Mexico State’s Teddy Allen and was eliminated in the first round.

Top storyline: The story of the Big East is yet to be finalized. Providence and Villanova have a chance to prove how good the conference is. Creighton showed the country that the Bluejays can play a bit in pushing Kansas hard before falling in the second round to overcome early exits by Marquette, Seton Hall and UConn.

Big Ten

Teams in March Madness bracket: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Teams remaining: Michigan (+6000 odds to win the national title), Purdue (+900)

NCAA tournament record: 9-7

Record against the spread: 7-9

Biggest surprise: Michigan came into the season expected to compete for the Big Ten title and be a national championship contender. However, there were questions about whether the Wolverines even belonged in the tournament after an up-and-down season. With wins over Colorado State and Tennessee, the Wolverines appear to be finally living up to the hype and rewarding those who bet online and continue to see Michigan as a player in the national tournament.

Biggest disappointment: There’s plenty of choices. Iowa was coming off a run to the Big Ten tournament title only to lose in the first round to Richmond. Illinois was listed by the March Madness odds as the underdog and, a second-round loss to Houston ended the Fighting Illini’s season in the subregional round.

Top storyline: The Big Ten had more teams get into the NCAA Tournament than any other conference but only Purdue and Michigan made it to the regionals. If either of those teams keeps winning, perhaps the narrative will change, but right now it has to go down as an underwhelming effort from a conference that could have been considered the best in the nation before the March Madness brackets got underway.

Big 12

Teams in March Madness bracket: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Texas, Texas Christian, Texas Tech

Teams remaining: Iowa State (+10000 odds to win it all), Kansas (+500), Texas Tech (+1600).

NCAA tournament record:

Record against the spread: 7-4

Biggest surprise: Iowa State won just two games a season ago (against Arkansas Pine Bluff and Jackson State). The Cyclones matched that total in the NCAA Tournament alone and covered as underdogs according to the Las Vegas odds in wins over LSU and Wisconsin.

Biggest disappointment: Baylor was viewed as a vulnerable team even though the Bears received a top seed. Leading rebounder Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua suffered a season-ending injury and LJ Cryer, who came into the tournament as the team’s No. 2 scorer, missed the tournament. The shorthanded Bears fell to North Carolina in the second round. Baylor did come back from a 25-point deficit to force overtime, but simply ran out of gas to become the first of the No. 1 seeds to be eliminated.

Top storyline: Once again, the Big 12 is thriving in the month of March. Three teams advanced to the regionals and the number could have been even higher. TCU had South Region top seed Arizona on the ropes and Texas gave Purdue a tough fight as well. It would be hard right now for another conference to be better and deeper than the Big 12.

Mountain West

Teams in March Madness bracket: Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Wyoming

Teams remaining: none

NCAA tournament record: 0-4

Record against the spread: 0-4

Biggest surprise: Wyoming was the last of the Mountain West teams to make the field and any thought that the Cowboys didn’t belong in the field ended when they were going toe to toe with Indiana. It was a three-point game on multiple occasions in the second half before Wyoming’s offense went cold in an eight-point loss in a First Four contest.

Biggest disappointment: San Diego failed to hold a 14-point lead and lost to Creighton in overtime. It was the closest a Mountain West team came to recording a victory in this year’s tournament. It also prevented a matchup between San Diego State’s stifling defense and Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Region.

Top storyline: In what was such a memorable season in the Mountain West, it had to be disappointing that none of the four teams managed to pick up a victory.


Teams in March Madness bracket: Arizona, Southern California, UCLA

Teams remaining: Arizona (+500 to win the national title), UCLA (+1500).

NCAA tournament record: 4-1

Record against the spread: 1-4

Biggest surprise/disappointment: Southern California’s loss to Miami would go down as the biggest surprise and disappointment since the other two Pac-12 teams are still alive in the tournament. The USC-Miami game was expected to be a battle and it was just that with Miami winning by two points.

Top storyline: Let’s wait and see on this one. It has been 25 years since a Pac-12 team won the national title and the last team from the conference to reach the title game was UCLA in 2006. Will that streak finally come to an end?

Southeastern Conference

Teams in March Madness bracket: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Louisiana State, Tennessee

Teams remaining: Arkansas (+5000 to win the national title).

NCAA tournament record: 4-5

Record against the spread: 2-7

Biggest surprise: Who had Arkansas as the last remaining SEC team in the NCAA Tournament? The Razorbacks have a tough test against tournament favorite Gonzaga in the regional semifinal.

Biggest disappointment: Where do we start? Kentucky losing to Saint Peter’s is a shocker to top all shockers and then seeing Auburn get run off the court by Miami added to the misery of the SEC teams in the tournament.

Top storyline: Obviously, if Arkansas takes down Gonzaga, it will take some of the spotlight off championship contenders Auburn and Kentucky failing to make it to the regionals.

West Coast Conference

Teams in March Madness bracket: Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco

Teams remaining: Gonzaga (+225 odds to win the national championship).

NCAA tournament record: 3-2

Record against the spread: 1-4

Biggest surprise/biggest disappointment: It is hard to consider the losses by Saint Mary’s and San Francisco as either disappointments or surprises. Saint Mary’s beating Indiana by 29 points was impressive for sure, and San Francisco nearly took out Murray State so the message has been sent that the WCC is not a one-team conference.

Top storyline: As usual, the attention in the WCC falls on Gonzaga, which advanced to the national title game in 2017 and 2021 and is trying to take the final step.

March Madness Bracket
March Madness Bracket

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