Conference Championship Week 101

March Madness is coming up, and we couldn’t be more excited. Before it starts, let’s break down the ins and outs  of the process that leads to the Conference Champions.  So, to shore up your college basketball knowledge, here is Championship Week 101!

Championship Week 101

What is Championship Week?

  • Every Division 1 in team in college basketball is part of a larger conference where they play the majority of their games. Each conference has 8-18 teams and has both a regular season and a conference tournament champion. The regular season champion is based on best record. The conference tournament champion is determined by a conference tournament that takes place in mid-March as a finale to the regular season and a prelude to post-season play. Championship week is the name for all of these tournaments collectively. (There are 3 divisions in college hoops, but we are only talking about the best Division, D1, here)

Why does this matter, and why do I care?

  • Well, it’s exciting! But why? The winner of each conference tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, whereas the winner of the regular season conference championship does not get that automatic bid. There are 68 spots in the NCAA Tournament, and there are 31 automatic bids from the conference tournaments. If you think about it, that means half the spots are given to the champions. Moreover, every team in the top 25-30 of the NCAA is likely to make the tournament — but not necessarily as their conference tournament champion representative. What does this mean? Basically, it’s harder than you think to get into the NCAA Tournament, so that guaranteed bid is not only a sense of security but also many teams’ only chance to get a shot at the National Championship. Plus, the whole thing is awesome… there are so many stories that come from this week!

Okay… so what should I know?

  • Like we said, there are 31 conference tournaments in D1 hoops (the Ivy League sends their regular season champion instead of having a conference tournament) and each winner gets that elusive guaranteed spot in the NCAA Tournament.  Some conferences are better than others — the big ones include: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, and the SEC. Conferences are built on a number of factors, including things like geography, media deals, academics, size, etc. In the past few years, there has been a lot of movement as teams leave to join new super conferences that are driven by more of the economic factors. It is very likely that in these bigger conferences, there will be 2-8 teams per conference that make the tournament regardless of the automatic bid. In the smaller conferences, there are likely only 1-3 that make it, or sometimes only the automatic bid gets in.

Awesome! What is the schedule?

  • Conference tournaments begin as early as March 4th and continue as late as March 16th. Yes, we know that’s a lot of basketball and even if you wanted to, it’s probably pretty tough to catch every game (trust us — you wouldn’t want to, anyways). The big ones to keep an eye on include: ACC (March 12-16), Atlantic 10 (March 12-16), Big East (March 12-16), Big 10 (March 12-16), Big 12 (March 12-16), Conference USA (March 11-15), Pac 12 (March 12-15), Patriot (March 3, 5, 8, 12), SEC (March 12-16), and the West Coast (March 6-11). The crazy thing about championship week is that some teams will get their very first shot at the NCAA Tournament because of the conference championships. And, once you get to the big dance, anything can happen. What’s cooler than that?

The entire schedule can be found here for all 32 conferences.

Ummm, that’s a lot of hoops… can you narrow it down?

  • Absolutely. Here are a few key games to watch:
    • ACC (March 15 for the Semifinals, March 16 for the Finals)
    • Big 10 (March 15 for the Semifinals, March 16 for the Finals)
    • Big 12  (March 14 for the Semifinals, March 15 for the Finals)
    • Pac 12 (March 14 for the Semifinals, March 15 for the Finals)
    • SEC (March 12 for the Semifinals, March 16 for the Finals)

You might just want to clear your schedule for next weekend, or at least check your Twitter (shameless plug, follow us @TheSportsQuip and we will keep you informed so you don’t have to watch!). If you get the opportunity t0 go check out some games, go! They’re quite fun and located all over the country.

This ends on Sunday, March 16th right?

  • It sure does. Many of the conference tournaments conclude Sunday afternoon around 5pm and the selection show for March Madness begins that evening around 6pm. That really gives the selection committee a very limited time to make some hard decisions about which teams to include. Think about it — if a team that wasn’t supposed to win does in fact win their conference tournament, they get an automatic bid even though they might never have gotten in otherwise. Furthermore, many of the teams that were supposed to win but don’t will get in anyway, especially as part of the top 25. This means that a few deserving teams will not make it to the tournament. There is a lot of heartbreak even before the NCAA Tournament begins.

Where do these broken hearts go?

  • If you don’t make the NCAA Tournament, there is always the NIT. If you don’t invited to the NIT, then there are few other post season tournaments, but more than likely your season is over.

What comes next? What is this Bracketology thing?

  • The NCAA Tournament! Wahoo! Bracketology is the term for the Selection Show where you find out what teams make the tournament. Bracketology occurs on Sunday, March 16th in the evening. Each team, their seeding and their match-ups in the bracket will be announced. We will go into much further detail with breaking down the bracket when the time comes, but for now here’s a few things to know:
    • 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament
    • 2 play-in games
    • 16 seeds, with 1 being the best team and 16 being the worst
    • 4 regions
    • Order of events: Play-games, rounds 2 & 3, Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship
    • The Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas is the site of this year’s Final Four
    • March Madness takes about 3ish weeks total and will conclude on April 7th

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