With Kentucky and Duke out, who is left to favor?

Since selection Sunday, I’ve seen a lot of headlines about both Duke and Kentucky not being in the tournament for the first time since 1976. That made me want to research a little deeper into the potential impact that the absence of both Kentucky and Duke will have on this year’s March Madness tournament. The combination of both Duke and Kentucky not being in the tournament has only happened fourteen times since 1939. The results of those fourteen tournaments are displayed below:

1939 – Oregon (Pacific Coast)
1940 – Indiana (Big Ten)
1941 – Wisconsin (Big Ten)
1943 – Wyoming (Mountain States)
1944 – Utah (Skyline)
1946 – Oklahoma State (Missouri Valley)
1947 – Holy Cross (Independent)
1950 – CCNY (Metropolitan New York)
1953 – Indiana (Big Ten)
1954 – La Salle (Independent)
1965 – UCLA (AAWU)
1967 – UCLA (AAWU)
1974 – NC State (ACC)
1976 – Indiana (Big Ten)

After finding these results, I observed how many times each conference won the championship over those fourteen years, and the percent that correlates:

Big Ten: 4/14 = 28.571%
AAWU: 2/14 = 14.286%
Independent: 2/14 = 14.286%
Pacific Coast: 1/14 = 7.143%
Mountain States: 1/14 = 7.143%
Skyline: 1/14 = 7.143%
Missouri Valley: 1/14 = 7.143%
Metropolitan New York: 1/14 = 7.143%
ACC: 1/14 = 7.143%

The main finding that stood out to me was the fact that the Big Ten won nearly 30% of March Madness tournaments when neither Duke nor Kentucky were in the tournament. This year, the big ten has eight teams in the tournament:

Michigan (1 seed)
Illinois (1 seed)
Iowa (2 seed)
Ohio State (2 seed)
Purdue (4 seed)
Wisconsin (9 seed)
Maryland (10 seed)
Rutgers (10 seed)

Given that both Duke and Kentucky are out of the tournament, and based on previous trends and this year’s rankings, should those making March Madness brackets favor a Big Ten team to win it all?

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