How important is winning a conference tournament to reaching the men’s Final Four?

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers. Postings appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Warmup before the 2006 NCAA Men's Division I B...

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March Madness really takes off this week as many of the major college conferences begin their men’s conference tournaments. Thirty-one of the 68 berths in this year’s tournament come from those schools that win their conference tourney (or in the case of one conference, the Ivy League, which sends the school that won their regular season title), while the remaining 37 schools in the tournament will receive at-large berth from the committee this Sunday.

Since 2000, there have been 52 different teams that have made it to the Final Four in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Over that timeframe, just under 54% of those Final Four teams (28 of the 52) played in their conference tournament championship game the week prior to the NCAA tournament. Twenty-three of the 28 won their conference tourney.

Of last year’s Final Four teams, Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad was the only one to win its conference tournament (they won the Big East Conference tournament); Kentucky and Ohio State both lost in their conference title game, while Kansas was defeated in the Big 12 conference semifinals.

In 2011, three of the Final Four teams won their conference tournament (Connecticut, Butler and Kentucky) and the fourth team, VCU, lost in the title game. In 2010, again three Final Four teams won their conference tournament (Duke, Butler and West Virginia) while Final Four participant Michigan State was defeated in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.

Following are how well the Final Four teams since 2000 (the last 13 tournaments) did in their conference tournaments prior to the NCAA tournament.

Final Four teams that won their conference tournament: 23

Final Four teams that lost in the conference tournament title game: 5

Final Four teams that lost in the conference tournament semifinals: 14

Final Four teams that lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals: 9

Final Four teams that did not play in a conference tournament: 1

Did you know? Of the 13 teams that won the NCAA championship this century (2000-2012), eight won their conference tournament. Of the other five, four of those schools, North Carolina in 2009, North Carolina in 2005, Syracuse in 2003 and Maryland in 2002, all lost in their conference semifinals. Last year, Kentucky lost in their Southeastern Conference championship game to Vanderbilt.

Did you know? The last year when none of the Final Four teams won their conference tournament was 2009.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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