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Sports NCAA Basketball

Vivid Seats Maps the Growth of Men's College Basketball Conferences

March 07, 2022 by Stephen Spiewak

Map of NCAA Men's College Basketball Conferences

Map of College Sports Conferences

While the madness of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is a perfect way to end the men’s college basketball season, sometimes it has nothing on the conference realignment craziness of the offseason. 

College conferences are far from static: Teams leave conferences to join new ones almost every year. Just like teams compete on the court, conferences compete off it. 

Vivid Seats has created an interactive map where fans can explore the ever-changing landscape of college athletics. 

This map, powered by Vivid Seats sales data, highlights the most popular men’s college basketball team in each county, according to Vivid Seats historical sales data. The map then showcases how conference alignment has shifted over the past 30+ seasons, as conferences compete for athletic supremacy. 

Growth of SEC Shows No Signs of Slowing 

The SEC's expansion has fueled significant growth. The football-crazed conference, which claimed 564 counties in 1990, now lays claim to 835 counties. In 2025, with the addition to Texas and Oklahoma, its footprint will extend to 932 counties, nearly one-third of all U.S. counties. 

Here’s a breakdown of conferences claiming the most counties in 2022: 

  • SEC (835) 
  • Big Ten (675) 
  • Big 12 (489) 
  • ACC (413) 
  • Pac-12 (228) 
  • Big East (122) 

Smaller conferences have seen their footprint decrease as top teams have moved to larger conferences. The WAC has been hardest hit, losing Utah and BYU since 1990, causing a 92% drop in counties where the conference claimed the most popular team. 

Big East Enjoys Population Dominance 

With a large share of counties in densely populated metropolitan areas like New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia, the Big East controls the largest share of population on the map. 

Despite having a fraction of the counties that the SEC and Big Ten enjoy, the population reach of the Big East is double either of those conferences. 

Conference reach, by population: 

  • Big East – 114,031,539 
  • Big 10 – 59,248,423 
  • Pac-12 – 54,249,181 
  • SEC – 46,246,229 
  • ACC – 45,197,244 
  • Big 12 – 25,872,947 

The ACC has enjoyed a +49% in overall population reach since 2000, thanks to the additions of Boston College, Miami, Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame. 

Pac-12 Leads in Sheer Size  

When it comes to total land size, no conference has a stronger footing than the Pac-12, which dominates most of the West Coast. 

With a strong presence in Nevada, Idaho and New Mexico, the Mountain West Conference cracks the Top 5:  

  • Pac-12 - 365,026,248 (acres) 
  • Big 10 - 333,439,293  
  • Big 12  - 296,669,803  
  • SEC  - 294,641,463  
  • Mountain West  - 247,536,729 

Explore the interactive map below: 

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