March Madness drought: College basketball teams ready to end postseason absence

While reaching the NCAA Tournament is a hope for the eternal powers of college basketball, it is a measure of success for every other program. It is rare for any Power Six team to go a decade or more without a trip to the Big Dance, but it is much harder for lower- and mid-major schools to achieve March Madness berths, which often requires a conference tournament championship. it occurs. Cancel their tickets.

March Madness drought

Some of the longest postseason droughts at each of these levels will end this year. Washington State’s 14-year absence is the second-longest among power conference schools and is all but guaranteed come Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, Stetson already guaranteed the first March Madness appearance in program history when it won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.

As the 68-team field takes shape during league tournament action, more schools will look to break the postseason silence and carve their names into program history.

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Below are the most notable NCAA Tournament droughts that could end after this season.

First time participants:
stetson haters

Grambling State Tigers

Stetson made history last weekend when it earned an automatic bid with the ASUN Tournament Championship – its first in 52 seasons of eligibility. The Hatters are unlikely to be anything other than a No. 16 seed in March Madness, but can they become just the third team to defeat a No. 1 seed? If Jalen Blackmon repeats his 43-point performance from the ASUN title game, anything is possible. Stetson played the projected top seed in November and lost to Houston by 29 points. Grambling State, coming off a 12-year winless campaign, punched its ticket to the Big Dance when it won the SWAC Tournament for the first time in program history.

Notable mid-major, lower-major teams on the brink:
*Reflects the automatic bid earned by the team

  • New Mexico Lobos (2014)
  • James Madison Dukes (2013)

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (2013)

  • Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (2013)
  • Long Beach State Beach (2012)

*Oakland Golden Grizzlies (2011)

Indiana State Sycamores (2011)

*Wagner Seahawks (2003)

*McNeese State Cowboys (2002)

*Samford Bulldogs (2000)

  • Duquesne Deux (1977)

Indiana State’s tournament fate will come down to selection Sunday after a disappointing finish in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The Sycamores, enjoying their best season since Larry Bird guided them to the national championship game, earned the No. 1 seed in “Ark Madness”, but missed the title bout, losing to Drake in an 84–80 thriller. It remains to be seen whether his success in the regular season is enough to land him in the field.

scheduled tribe. John’s Red Storm:

Consecutive absence: 3 tournaments

It’s not the longest drought, but St. John’s hasn’t been to the postseason since before the pandemic, and it’s quite a long time for a proud program looking to regain prominence on both the Big East and national stages. It’s been a tumultuous first campaign for Rick Pitino, who not-so-subtly expressed his displeasure over his first Red Storm roster amid eight losses in 10 games. But after winning each of their last five regular season contests, the Red Storm are back in the picture as a bubble team.

Wake up the forest demon Deacons:
Last appearance: 2017

Consecutive absence: 5 tournaments

Wake Forest probably needs help from other bubble teams to crack the 68-team field, but there is still a chance to reach the tournament for the second time since 2010. The Demon Deacons played themselves firmly into the projected bracket after earning an upset win over Duke last month, but the home stretch of the regular season was a disaster as they lost three consecutive games to teams in the bottom half of the ACC ladder. Steve Forbes hasn’t been able to take Wake Forest to the Big Dance yet, even with 25-
Win season (2021-22) on your ledger.

South Carolina Gamecocks:
Last appearance: 2017

Consecutive absence: 5 tournaments

There are no bigger surprises in the Power Six ranks this season than South Carolina, which entered the year projected to finish last in the SEC, yet had its best regular season (winning percentage) since the 1970s. Based on ) reached in. Lamont Paris did a tremendous job in his second year, leading the Gamecocks to a 25–6 record and a second-place finish in one of the top basketball conferences in the country. Strong wins against Tennessee and Kentucky midway through the league season proved that South Carolina is capable of making a deep run in the postseason, making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than half a decade.

Utah Utes:
Last appearance: 2016

Consecutive absence: 6 tournaments

Succumbing to road sweeps at the hands of Oregon schools was a crushing blow to Utah’s resume, but those final two regular season games are not entirely indicative of this team’s campaign. The Utes compiled an impressive non-conference win tally with wins over top-25 teams in Saint Mary’s and BYU, and it defeated Washington State by a massive 22 points in the opener of Pac-12 action. Finishing a game under .500 in conference play isn’t ideal for a tournament candidate, but the task at hand is to remain competitive on the bubble.

Nebraska Cornhuskers:

Consecutive absence: 8 tournaments

Fred Hoiberg’s first two Nebraska teams won seven games each, and it’s been nothing but progress so far for the Huskers, who have improved on those totals in each of the last three seasons. Keisei Tominaga, a native of Japan who moved to the United States as a junior college player in 2019, is in the midst of a second consecutive outstanding year at the Division I level, shooting 37.1% from beyond the arc to lead the team in scoring. Did the shooting. His explosiveness from three-point range is a major reason the Huskers are headed back to the Big Dance.

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Washington State Cougars:

Consecutive absence: 14 tournaments

The second-longest drought among Power Six teams will end this year as Washington State is playing its best season since the Tony Bennett era. The Cougars, who had consistently ranked inside the bottom tier of the Pac-12 until national Coach of the Year candidate Kyle Smith brought them out of the cellar, surprisingly finished second in the regular season conference standings and two-time league champion Arizona. Defeated. Breakout guard Miles Rice, who missed the entire 2022-23 season due to a battle with lymphoma, has been one of the biggest stories in college basketball this year and is the catalyst behind WSU’s ascent.

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