The NCAA Tournament-bound teams bounced from the Big 12 Tournament recover quickly with the bigger prize in sight.
“It’s a special time,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
The NCAA Tournament, “that’s the most important part,” West Virginia forward Devin Williams said.
And the Big 12 will enter the field this week brimming with hope and confidence, with seven of its 10 teams on the bracket for the third straight year. But the Big 12 has a recent history of overselling by seed and underdelivering by performance, and that’s cost the conference more than wounded pride.
By not playing to its seeds, the conference has left money from the NCAA Tournament revenue system on the table, probably between $2.5 million and $3 million.
The NCAA distributes revenue to teams in the form of units. Each unit is worth a specific amount each year. Each team receives a unit for appearing in the tournament and up to five depending on how many games it wins. The units don’t get paid directly to the school but to the conference.
Last year, a unit was worth about $255,000, and the average value over the previous three years was about $250,000.
The money used to be paid out annually for victories, but the NCAA stopped putting teams in a position where a last-second shot or free throw could be worth a mint at that moment — the $300,000 free throw.
Today, the fund is spread out over six-year rolling period, and each unit nets an annual payout over a six-year life. In the last three years, the Big 12 owns a collective 14-19 record in NCAA Tournament games. It’s the worst three-year mark in the league’s 20-year history.
If the Big 12 programs had played to their seeds during 2013-15, their record would have been 25-18.
That’s 11 more victories, or based on the three-year average, about $2.75 million that would have been dropped into the conference coffers and distributed to members.
The Big 12 received more than $37 million in NCAA revenues in 2013, according to its tax return, and the majority of that came from the men’s basketball tournament. The league annually distributes record revenue to its members.
But every March victory matters, and for the Big 12 there haven’t been enough of them in recent years. Since 2012, when Kansas reached the national title game, the Big 12 hasn’t had a regional finalist. There have been five Sweet 16 teams in the last three years.
Since the title-game run, Kansas has been bounced three times in upsets by seed, the last two years on the first weekend as a No. 2 seed. Iowa State and Baylor also lost their first games last season as No. 3 seeds.
The Big 12 is well-positioned for its team to make long runs this season. Kansas is a No. 1 seed in the South Region. Oklahoma is a No. 2, West Virginia is a No. 3, Iowa State is a No. 4, Baylor is a No. 5, Texas is a No. 6 and Texas Tech is a No. 8.
It’s another opportunity for the Big 12 to have success. By the unit.