NBA Draft Trends: Examining the major conferences in college hoops

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Ah, Memorial Day. A time to give thanks to those who've made the ultimate sacrifice while enjoying cookouts, ladder ball, good barbecue -- and, of course, graphs and charts!

Our NBA Draft Trends series continues today with a look at the six major conferences in college basketball, tracking how those leagues have fared with players drafted in the past 15 seasons. On Thursday and Friday of last week, I examined the other end -- NBA franchises and how/where they were making their choices. Now let's look at the lion's share of those picks from college.

There have been 885 draft picks since 1998; 57 percent of those picks have come from the ACC, Pac-12, Big East, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten. As you can see in the chart above, the ACC has been the most desired among the major leagues, while the Big Ten lags somewhat significantly behind.

Here's how the draft-pick tallies out in 15 years.

  1. ACC: 99 (11.2 percent of all draft picks); 6.6 players picked per year

  2. Pac-12: 91 (10.3 percent); 6.1 players picked per year

  3. Big East: 87 (9.8 percent); 5.8 players picked per year

  4. SEC: 83 (9.4 percent); 5.5 players picked per year

  5. Big 12: 80 (9 percent); 5.3 players picked per year

  6. Big Ten: 62 (7.1 percent); 4.1 players picked per year

Lottery picks since 1998

  • ACC: 32
    • Most lottery picks in a year: five (2005). Zero lottery selections in: 2000, 2008.
  • Big 12: 25
    • Most lottery picks in a year: four (2011). Zero in 1999, 2004 and 2005.
  • Big East: 25
    • Most lottery picks in a year: four (2009). Zero in 1998.
  • Pac-12: 23
    • Most lottery picks in a year: five (2008). Zero in 2002, 2003 and 2010.
  • Southeastern: 20
    • Most lottery picks in a year: three (2007, 2010, 2012). Zero in 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2009.
  • Big Ten: 12
    • Most lottery picks in a year: two (2000, 2004, 2007). Zero in 1999, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2010.

Another aspect that I was interested in: the pick patterns from each conference. Has a league dipped or trended up in the past decade and a half? Do some leagues have bell curves or natural up-and-down periods? Yes, absolutely. (A note here on all picks: Whatever league a team was in during that year was the league that it was assigned to. So the Big East doesn't inherit the draft picks from Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati, etc. when they were C-USA members. The SEC doesn't get Missouri's draft picks when they were in the Big 12.)

Let's start with the ACC. It's topped out at nine -- but has done it four times. It has had four years of less than five picks, but 2000 and 2004 were the only true down years for the league's pro prospects.

The Pac-12 has been volatile. In 2001 and 2008, the league was as prime as it has ever been, and I'm stating that no league has had a better draft year since 1998 than the Pac-12 did in 2008. It had 11 picks, five of them in the lottery and seven in the first round. Amazing that just two years later, the Pac-12 dipped down to just two picks. I'd expect this graph to scoot up toward the seven line again in the next three years.

Like the Pac-12, the Big East has had a couple of years with 11-pick drafts. In 2006, UConn helped reached that level and, in 2010, seven players were taken in the second round. Ironically, that draft was one year before the Big East sent a record 11 teams to the NCAA tournament -- and look at 2011, a dagger downward, just three players taken that season.

Call it the Calipari Effect. The SEC was an up-and-down league in getting pro prospects, and now, since 2009, the conference's draft-pick trend line resembles the American economy in the mid-1990s. Last year's draft saw 12 players taken from the SEC, the most of any conference in the past 15 years. Can this continue? Oh, it will, for two reasons: Cal will keep this rolling at Kentucky; and the SEC has 14 programs now, upping its chances at an extra draft pick or two per year.

A slow-but-steady climb for the Big 12 will likely see a dip in coming years because it lost Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC. (Think they don't have a lot? Think again: 12 picks in 15 years between the two schools. More on this coming on Tuesday.) Kansas and Texas have done most of the lifting for the league, and it's likely to stay that way.

And ... the Big Ten. The league in many ways has been in decline over the course of the past decade. Now, last season saw really good play, and we'll see some Big Ten draft picks this season, but there have been some dismal years for this conference. Why? Well, sit tight, because we'll be examining that in the coming days as well. Only one year with more than six draft picks -- and it was eight, all the way back in 2000. I think that was Robbie Hummel's freshman year.

Coming Tuesday: Looking at all the major conferences and seeing how the draft picks from each league are divvied up by school.

 
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