The NCAA Tournament is one of the great pillars of competition. Not much beats the drama of the month-long March Madness, and very few things top the feeling of watching those first couple of weekends whittle 68 teams down to just four. The drama and spectacle sits as one of the few unmatched sporting events anywhere in the world. In short, it owns the month.
The Tournament itself is big money. In the past ten years, it produced $7.5 billion in advertising dollars, and last year's $1.13 billion was second only to the NFL playoffs. CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting, who broadcast every single game on a channel on your cable dial, are in the infancy years of a 14-year agreement to televise the tournament, a program that runs through 2024 for more than $10.8 billion, which it will pay $740 million for this season alone.
So when a conference places a large number of teams in the tournament, it's a big deal. When those teams are successful, it's a bigger deal. And when those teams qualify for the later rounds and keep winning, it's a bigger deal even still.
That's what makes the ACC's 2016 run a) so impressive and b) worth more than you think.
Four conferences sent seven teams to the Tournament, all of which are power leagues and including the ACC (along with the Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-21). Of those four leagues, however, the ACC has half of the team's in the Elite Eight, all of which play each other, thereby guaranteeing the conference half of the spots in the Final Four next weekend. Of the remaining leagues, only the Big 12 has multiple teams remaining (Kansas and Oklahoma), both of which play the best possible remaining opponent (second-seeded Oklahoma plays top-seeded Oregon and top-seeded Kansas plays second-seeded Villanova), far from a guarantee it'll get a team into the National Semifinals.
What's that worth to the ACC? According to ESPN, each game played in this year's tournament is worth $265,791, money of which is paid out in each of the next six years (so through 2022) with the number of each game growing each year in the payout. A game played in this year's tournament, therefore, is worth more than $1.59 million.
So do the math. At most, the ACC currently has 23 "units" by qualifying four teams into the Elite Eight. By guaranteeing two teams into the Final Four, they'll have 25 "units" (where a unit is a team slot in a round), which means that before next weekend is even played, the conference is set to receive at least $39.9 million.
Considering the East and Midwest regionals are on the same side of the bracket, the ACC is also set to guarantee itself a slot in the national championship, whether it come from UNC, Notre Dame, Virginia, or Syracuse. It'll also top the record of 24 units set by the Big East in 2009.
Last year, the ACC has 21 units, good enough for $32.8 million.
Now comes the kicker. The ACC splits the money it receives from the basketball fund, meaning of this money, Boston College, despite being winless in the league, is set for a windfall. According to a 2014 comment made by Virginia spokesman Jim Daves, every team receives equal payouts. Individual performances in the tournament contribute to a bigger pot, but the pot is split evenly among the ACC member schools.
With 15 teams in the ACC, that means Boston College, despite being winless in conference this season, is set to receive about $2.67 million from this year's performance in the NCAA Tournament.