Once again, we're running our annual NBA Draft Trends series. Every Wednesday leading up to the NBA Draft will feature a piece on both the college and/or professional angle of the draft to highlight patterns (and dispel some myths). We started with an unprecedented turn of events in this year's lottery, then followed that up with a deeper look at the history of the No. 2 pick. From there, we removed the sheer on a lot of the myths surrounding international players taken in the first round. Last week it was an examination of trade patterns over the past 25 years. Today we're looking at how the biggest conferences in college basketball have fared over the past two decades.
Programs like to boast about how many players they send to the pros. Back in April, I posted a piece that showed which schools had the most alumni in this year's NBA playoffs. But what about the conferences? While it's true that college basketball fans aren't as connected or as devoted to their leagues as college football fans, it's still pretty interesting to see which conferences have performed most consistently and prolifically in this regard.
Let's look at the past two decades. Since 1996, how have the Big East, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC performed when it comes to producing draft picks? There have been 1,120 draft picks over the past 20 years. Of those, 683 picks have come from the Big 6 (61 percent). On average, 34 players in a given draft -- so more than the entire first round -- are picked from one of the Big 6 leagues.
The high point was 2012, when 44 of the 60 picks came from the Big 6. The low point was 2003 and 2004 (the height of the international-prospect fascination) when, in both of those years, just 23 players from major conferences were drafted.
Here's how those 683 picks break down per league. The ACC is in front, but not by much, while the Big Ten is considerably in last place:
For clarity's sake, know that I tallied each league's draft picks according to when those programs where in those specific leagues in given years. So, hypothetically, a Maryland player getting drafted in 2012 would've been a notch for the ACC, whereas a Maryland player getting drafted last year would've been a nod to the Big Ten.
The ACC accounts for 12.4 percent of all draft picks in the past 20 years. That's pretty impressive. I was curious about another league, one that used to be major, a guarantee for multiple bids every year, but has since been reduced to single-bid status: Conference USA. While it still wasn't in the same league as these other leagues, look at how C-USA has dipped since its heyday of the early 2000s. Thirty-four picks in all.
If you're curious, 186 picks constitute all other leagues (not including C-USA) in the past 20 years. The rest of the picks are international players or guys taken directly out of high school.
In terms of the lottery, this is how the major conferences have done. It is a microcosm of the draft trends across both rounds from the past two decades.
The Pac-12 is the only conference of the past 20 years not to have a No. 1 overall pick. In fact, it's been more than 40 years -- back when the league was the Pac-8. Yeah, if you can believe it, the last player to come from that league to be taken first was ... Bill Walton in 1974. Just wild. The ACC and SEC are tied for the most No. 1 overall picks in the past 20 years (three apiece).
Among each league, this is the high point for most lottery picks in a given year:
ACC: 5 (2000)
Pac-12: 5 (2008)
SEC: 4 (2015)
Big 12: 4 (2009)
Big Ten: 3 (2013)
Big East: 2 (1996, 1997, 2003)
Among each league, this is the high point for most picks in a given year:
SEC: 13 (1996)
ACC: 12 (2015)
Pac-12: 12 (2008)
Big East: 11 (2010)
Big 12: 10 (2008, 2010)
Big Ten: 8 (2000)
And finally, here's a look at how each league has done, year by year, since 1996. It's largely unpredictable each season, though the ACC has and should remain the most successful league when it comes to sending guys to the pros. There's a lot of teams, a lot of blue bloods and a lot of schools based in talent-rich areas.