NCAA Tournament: Which Conference Is Best Represented in the Big Dance?

Every year, the same arbitrary debate arises about which conference is the nation's best. In the preseason, we predict what will happen and during the course of the season, we evaluate what's taking place.

The same goes for the postseason -- after conference tournaments are played and the NCAA Tournament seeds are established, we reflect on which conference has proven itself (at least, to this point) as the best.

At a glance, from beginning to end, the ACC appears to have that title. But is that true?

With the help of our nERD metric -- a team ranking that represents the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average one on a neutral court -- we're able to find out.

Conference Teams nERD Avg. nERD
AAC 2 30.68 15.34
ACC 9 136.59 15.18
Atlantic 10 3 31.95 10.65
Big East 7 91.11 13.02
Big Ten 7 89.40 12.77
Big 12 6 96.14 16.02
Pac-12 4 57.02 14.26
SEC 5 72.84 14.57
West Coast 2 34.92 17.46

To answer the above question, yes, the ACC is the most well-represented conference in this year's NCAA Tournament.

While North Carolina and Louisville have lived up to expectations, Duke, Florida State and Notre Dame have rounded into form lately. Even Wake Forest, Miami and Virginia Tech have been pleasant surprises. And Virginia, well, they've been Virginia.

All total, five of those nine crack the top 20 of our power rankings, and the remaining four are all within the top 43, according to nERD.

In terms of conferences with at least three representatives, the Big 12 provides the most bang for your buck. The bottom of the conference was pretty bad, but five of their six tournament teams rank within our top 20 and own a nERD of 15 or better.

Clearly, the Big Ten was the most disappointing of the six major conferences -- they're the only one with an average nERD below 13. Furthermore, their best team, Purdue (16.66 nERD) is worse than the ACC's fourth-best team and is just better than the third-best Big 12 squad.

The West Coast Conference -- with Gonzaga and Saint Mary's leading the way -- makes up the nation's most top-heavy league. With a nERD of 20.54, the Zags are the nation's number-one team while the Gaels sit at 14.38. They are the only two WCC teams to rank within the top 50 of our power rankings.