As guys tend to do, a few of my buddies and I recently had a debate over which conference was better, the Big 10 or the Pac 10. Last week Grand Valley State, a Division II school in Michigan, upset the basketball powerhouse Michigan State Spartans 85-82 in double overtime. This prompted me to reexamine the debate and try and come up with a definitive answer.For the purpose of this article we will be looking at five categories. The categories are: total number of Final Four appearances, total number of championships won, total number of championship appearances, cumulative post-season record including winning percentage, and total number of tournament bids.
When considering championships I will only be looking at statistics from the NCAA tournament starting from when it was created in 1939. This is because the NIT will always feel like the little brother tournament to me, and success while competing in it doesn’t mean as much as success in the NCAA tournament. Through the research I found some very interesting things, and the final answer may surprise all the Pac 10 fans out there.
Before we get to the meat and potatoes of the article, I would just like to point out that there are many factors and a wide range of variables that affect a study like this, and anybody with an elementary knowledge of statistics would know this. With that being said, the results of this miniature study are not conclusive, they will simply give a general idea of which conference performs better at the national level, which I believe is a good barometer of measuring a conference’s worth.
Since the creation of the NCAA tournament by the legendary Kansas coach Phog Allen, the Big 10 has won a total of 10 national titles compared to the Pac 10’s 14 championship victories. Indiana has the most titles for the Big 10 with five, while UCLA leads the Pac 10 with 11. The Big 10 has more appearances in the title game with 22 to the Pac 10’s 17.
In terms of Final Four appearances, the Big 10 leads with 44 trips, while the Pac 10 has 33. For those counting at home, that gives the Big 10 a 2-1 lead over the Pac 10. The Pac 10 has a better winning percentage in the tournament at .694 and a record of 229-159. The Big 10 has a winning percentage of .675 and a record of 315-208. The conference with the most number of invitations to the big dance is the Big 10 with 195 total invites compared to 164 for the Pac 10 teams.
This gives the edge to the Big 10, 3-2. I must concede that the Big 10 has a successful basketball history. They are a good basketball conference despite the Michigan State debacle; however, their brand of basketball would put any insomniac to sleep. But that is a different topic entirely — for another debate, another time.