Although some fans enjoy watching quality college basketball at all levels, there are plenty of elitists who primarily focus on the basketball that is played at the Power 5 level. Once those individuals cling to a high-major conference and start following all news related to that league, the non-stop feuding ensues.
When it comes to the NBA Draft, it goes out without saying that many first-round picks tend to come from Power 5 conferences, but have you ever wanted to identify the conference that has the upper hand when it comes to high draft picks in the 21st Century? Well, if the answer is yes, today’s your lucky day.
Here are the top 5 NCAA conferences that have produced the most lottery picks in the NBA Draft.
5. Big Ten: 28 Lottery Picks
Despite finishing fifth in the conference standings, the Big Ten’s NBA Draft Night resume is awfully impressive if you ask me. Indiana currently leads the way for the conference with six players selected in the lottery since 2000. You would only need to back to 2019 in order to locate the last Hoosier to be selected in the lottery Romeo Langford, who went 14th overall.
Langford hasn’t established himself in the league just yet, but I can easily point to Indiana alums who have carved out successful NBA careers for themselves. Eric Gordon, the seventh-overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2017. Victor Oladipo, who went second overall to the Magic in 2013, has appeared in two All-Star games, captured the Most Improved Player award in 2018 as well as earning a spot on that year’s All-NBA team.
However, some schools like Iowa and Ohio State are slacking in the lottery department. It’s a tough pill to swallow when Maryland is producing more pro players than you. Seriously, the last two lottery picks to come out of Columbus, Ohio? DeAngelo Russell to the Lakers and Greg Oden to the Portland Trail Blazers. Not great, Buckeyes.
4. Big 12: 34 Lottery Picks
Also incredibly close to cracking the top 3, the Big 12 will have to settle for fourth place in the conference standings. I don’t know about you, but I think the Big 12 should thank Kansas for producing nearly half of the conference’s 34 lottery picks, with 14 Jayhawks becoming lottery picks. Josh Jackson was the last Kansas player to enjoy that achievement as the fourth pick in 2017, but like IU’s Langford, Jackson has yet to find consistent success in the league.
However, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are two former Jayhawk lottery picks who appear to be doing just fine after leaving for the pros. Aside from being a key contributor on the 2022 NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Wiggins has racked up the 2014-15 Rookie of the Year award and a 2022 All-Star Game nod. Embiid is a 5-time All-Star who has not only been named to the All-NBA Team and All-Defensive Team on several different occasions but also secured a regular-season scoring title before reaching the age of 30.
Even Oklahoma gets in on the action with recent Sooners like Trae Young and Buddy Hield going early in the draft, as well as Blake Griffin going first overall in 2009. Baylor also gets a nod with their 2021 lottery pick Davion Mitchell.
The Big 12 might be a conference to keep an eye on in the coming years. After all, they did produce the first-overall selection in 2021, when Cade Cunningham was selected by the Detroit Pistons.
3. Pac-12: 39 Lottery Picks
Hopefully, last year’s draft reminded you to stop sleeping on the Pac-12, because three of the 14 NBA lottery picks in that draft played collegiate basketball in that conference which ranked first among Power 5 conferences in 2021. Those three picks were Evan Mobley from USC, Zaire Williams from Stanford and Chris Duarte from Oregon. Arizona has created some separation from the rest of the pack with 10 total lottery picks since 2000.
Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and Andre Iguodala headline the group with six combined championships and 10+ years of NBA experience each. Shifting gears to individual accomplishments, Iguodala has enjoyed the most accolades since joining the league in 2004. The two-time All-Defensive Team member has an All-Star appearance and Finals MVP award to be proud of at the age of 38.
If we were looking at an all-time list, UCLA’s dominance in the 1970s would put them over the top, but in recent years the Bruins have been hibernating. Since 2000, their top pick in the draft remains Lonzo Ball going second overall to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017.
2. SEC: 45 Lottery Picks
I have grown accustomed to watching the SEC pump out lottery picks year after year, which is why the number at the top of this section didn’t cause my jaw to drop. However, it is remarkable that Kentucky has kept pace with Duke over the years and remained tied at 20 each in the team standings.
Where do I even begin with John Calipari and the Wildcats? You have up-and-coming players with loads of potential, such as Tyler Herro and PJ Washington in addition to borderline stars like De’Aaron Fox and Devin Booker, who are continuing to improve their games. You also have seasoned veterans like John Wall and Anthony Davis, who both understand what it takes to stick around in the league for the long haul. As long as John Calipari is running the show in Lexington, you should expect more lottery picks to come from Kentucky moving forward.
What makes the SEC even more interesting is how many one-off schools can produce stars. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, who was drafted first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2020, is one of only three lottery picks to come out of Athens since 2000. Even LSU has a spotty record, with their last lottery pick being Ben Simmons in 2016. And yet, the SEC is sitting in second place. Maybe they’re right. To the SEC, “It just means more…lottery picks.”
And with Oklahoma and Texas set to join the conference in 2025, you can expect this number to jump in the future.
1. ACC: 58 Lottery Picks
Unlike the other conferences mentioned in this article, the ACC has two schools that are in elite company as we speak. Duke (20) and North Carolina (12) make up two of the five high-major/Power 5 schools that have double-digit lottery selections since 2000, which is something that should be applauded by every college basketball fan.
And this top spot comes with schools like Syracuse only producing one lottery pick since joining the conference in 2013. Even Louisville has been slacking in recent years.
Focusing on the top dogs, however, I think Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum alone make Duke’s list of lottery picks stand out from a few of the others, such as New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett or New Orleans’ Zion Williamson. Irving has been viewed as the best improviser/magician in the league for quite a while, and who knew that Tatum was going to be in the “top 5 players on the planet” conversation by age 23? I know that the Coach K era is a thing of the past now, but the three-time Naismith Coach of the Year should remember that he had the pleasure of coaching two of the most skilled offensive players in the NBA today.
And who knows, maybe Paolo Banchero, who is most certainly a lottery pick in 2022 (and possibly a future Houston Rocket as many mock drafts predict) may be the last NBA legacy piece to make it big in the NBA.