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Those tourney wins about more than bragging rights

It’s OK to cheer for your conference rival in the NCAA tournament. There’s money at stake, man!

The NCAA awards cash (distributed over six years) for every game a team wins, paid back to the conference. Each conference has different rules for how it distributes it, but it’s usually spread out evenly among every member. (Some give more to the school that won.)

When VCU reached the Sweet 16, it ensured the Colonial Athletic Association $9.8 million. The Mountain West is poised to do even better depending on how much further BYU and San Diego State advance. But it’s not just win and get money. It’s far more complicated when it comes to that massive piece of the NCAA tournament pie.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Each tournament game a team plays – excluding the championship – is worth at least $240,000 annually for that team’s league over a rolling six-year period, according to the NCAA’s distribution formula. With at least seven tournament games this year, the MWC will receive at least $1.7 million from this year’s bracket from 2011 through 2016. ... In the six years from 2005 to 2010, they also played in only 21 combined NCAA Tournament games-- totaling about $5 million to be shared this year among nine league members (21 times $240,000).

By comparison, the Big East had 109 tournament games from 2005 to 2010 (excluding the championship), which is worth $26 million this year. Of the $180.5 million in Division I basketball funds to be distributed this year, 63 percent goes to the six power conferences: the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, Southeastern and Atlantic Coast. The other 25 leagues in Division I get the remaining 37 percent because they played in only 37 percent of the tournament games. From 2006 to 2010, the Big East will have distributed a combined $86.7 million in basketball fund money, compared to $18.4 for the MWC.

Now you know why small conference schools clamor for more NCAA tournament bids. It’s all about the money.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.