The Extra 31 (Who Would Have Made If It Was A 96 Team Tournament)

The Dance Card is prepared annually by two college professors who have used statistical analysis techniques to analyze the at-large bids extended by the NCAAT Selection Committee. While their projections are only valid for the 65 team field, I thought it might be interesting to use their projections to see what a 96 team field would have looked like this year.

I expect that there will be some discussion nationally about whether or not regular season conference winners should be guaranteed a slot in the 96 team field, regardless of their qualifications otherwise. But since I don’t think that the bottom half of Division 1 conferences should even be included in the national championship tournament, I’m certainly not going to include them in my analysis. (More on this later.)

So if we use the Dance Card to pick the “extra 31” teams, here is what we get in order of “strongest” to “weakest”:

Random Observations

I expect that the top 2/3 or so of these teams would appear on nearly any such list. Arguments will naturally pick up over the last teams in, no matter how many are included. But the real point of this exercise is to look at the “resumes” far more than the team names.

Those items noted in red are things that immediately tend to trigger my gag reflex when considering qualifications for a national championship tournament:
– RPI ranking 100+
– Overall records near .500
– Losing conference records
– 0/1 Top 50 wins
– Record against Top 100 < 0.333 - 4 or more losses to 101+ teams - More than one loss to 201+ teams As discussed by many people, there is simply no team here with a resume that screams out that they were unjustly left out of the 65 team field. Why TV networks would be willing to substantially improve the NCAAT’s current contract for the opportunity to show off this motley collection of teams is simply beyond me. Now let’s parse these 31 teams along with the 65 team field and take a look at the conferences with multiple selections:

By my count, 32 teams in the 65 team field came from the six BCS conferences. This means that 26 of the 34 at-large bids went to teams from the major sports conferences.

In the 31 extra teams, only 11 of those bids went to teams from the BCS conferences. The big winners in the expanded field will be teams from the true mid-major conferences.

The teams in the bottom half of Division 1 (ie low-majors), simply don’t compete with the conferences in the top-half. Further evidence of this comes from the fact that only three teams from the weaker sisters show up at the bottom of the expanded field. Here is another look at the three low-major teams that were highlighted in the first table:

Just because App St beat Michigan one time doesn’t meant that they are ready to join the Big 10. The same line of reasoning applies to the low-major basketball teams. As illustrated by these three teams, the low-majors generally haven’t beaten anyone of note and too often haven’t even played anyone of significance.

If I were NCAAT czar for the day, I would reinstitute Div I-AA and move the bottom 15 or 16 conferences back to where they belong. Use the NIT to give these teams a chance at actually competing for a national title. In the NCAAT, they are little more than speed bumps on the Road to the Final Four.


There are two immediate questions that come to mind:

– What will a 96 team NCAAT do to the NIT?
– Since NCSU and UNC were picked for the NIT, wouldn’t they have been picked for a 96 team NCAAT?

The first question is fairly easy to dismiss….who could possibly care about the NIT? It has been irrelevant for the 40+ years that I have watched college basketball and should have been killed long ago. But since the NCAA now owns the NIT, you can probably count on them continuing the NIT as long as it makes money.

Now for the second question concerning UNC and NCSU, let’s answer a question with a question. What do UNC/NCSU have in common with the three low-major teams outlined above?

Simple…..None of them belong in the same discussion as a national championship tournament.

Let’s put all five teams under the same microscope:

The conclusions seem obvious to me.

While it is possible (likely?) that the NCAA would reject all five teams, this table illustrates the type of decision that the Selection Committee will be forced to make. They have two basic choices:

– Look for the least objectionable teams to fill the tournament.
– Use the extra slots as welfare for the little guys (and I mean really little guys).


One of the catch phrases that I’ve seen attached to the expanded NCAAT is that this will give more teams a chance to win a national title. So here’s one last table that illustrates the stupidity of that claim:

Bottom line:

When the dust settles, the glass slipper just doesn’t fit on bad teams. And make no mistake about it, expanding the NCAAT to 96 teams will add far more bad teams than teams that deserve to be in a national championship tournament.

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

ACC & Other College Basketball

19 Responses to The Extra 31 (Who Would Have Made If It Was A 96 Team Tournament)

  1. LRM 04/13/2010 at 6:29 AM #

    Very nice work, Va.

  2. Rick 04/13/2010 at 8:24 AM #

    Great stuff
    SO NCSU would not even have made the tournament with 96 teams?
    How friggin sad is that.

    We had more talent than that I do not care what anyone says.

  3. JEOH2 04/13/2010 at 8:31 AM #

    Awesome…I Love These Types of Analysis…

  4. PackHooligan 04/13/2010 at 8:38 AM #

    Thanks for putting this together Va. Would the extra two days of basketball really create more add revenue for CBS than they make on soap operas, game shows, and talk shows? With these types of teams playing, I would think not.

  5. Wulfpack 04/13/2010 at 8:59 AM #

    “SO NCSU would not even have made the tournament with 96 teams?”

    I just spewed my morning coffee.

  6. StateFans 04/13/2010 at 9:13 AM #

    I think the case should be made that NC State would have deserved to make the 96 team field long before Weber, Morehead and IUPI and the point is that the selection committee would have figure out how they are going to deal with this stuff.

    Look at State’s # of games and overall record against Top 50 teams and NCAA Tournament teams compared to the others. Its criminal

  7. Wulfpack 04/13/2010 at 9:18 AM #

    ^Yes, but we were also one of the last teams taken for the NIT, so it makes perfect sense that we would have clearly been a bubble team in the field of 96. We’re splitting hairs here. If you have to worry about making a 96 team field, you’ve got bigger issues.

  8. bradleyb123 04/13/2010 at 10:01 AM #

    State would have made a 96-team tournament this year.

    Not that that would be something to brag about. It’s just silly to believe otherwise.

  9. whitefang 04/13/2010 at 10:26 AM #

    While we may have made a 96 team field, I think this analysis says, based on RPI etc, we would not have deserved to make it. In other words if it is about money (which it is) NC State and UNC would have made an expanded field. If it is about “deserving” to get in and “overlooking” the smaller schools then we wouldn’t. As has been said the fact that we would be a bubble team in a 96 team field speaks volumes of how this program has been (mis) managed the last 4 years.

  10. bradleyb123 04/13/2010 at 11:31 AM #

    With 19 wins, and 7 conference wins, including a mini-run in the conference tournament, and some quality wins, there’s no way State wouldn’t “belong” in a 96-team tournament. I thought we actually had a pretty good schedule strength, too, didn’t we?

    But again, not that that is anything to brag about.

  11. MP 04/13/2010 at 12:36 PM #

    “Just because App St beat Michigan one time doesn’t meant that they are ready to join the Big 10.” Nice!

    Excellent post. If the NCAA is willing to have a tournament that would even CONSIDER inviting teams that finish 5-11 in the ACC… Why don’t they just go for the jugular and kill all the conference tournaments and make it a 256-team tournament? Once they go to 96 teams they’ve effectively killed the last remaining meaning of the tournaments anyway. They are getting ready to dilute this thing to the point that the conferences are just wasting people’s time and money with their own tournaments.

  12. bradleyb123 04/13/2010 at 12:47 PM #

    MP, good point. FTR, I’m not in favor of tournament expansion. But I would like to see them invite whoever they determine to be worthy of an invitation (however many that ends up being). We have podunk conference winners taking bids from otherwise worthy teams every year. I don’t want to change that, but I would like to see those other “worthy” teams get in. If there are 65 teams, 80 teams, or 96 teams. Every year could be different, and there would just be “X” number of play-in games to get the total down to 64.

    But I’d like to see them determine their formula for selecting teams IN ADVANCE, and just feeding that into the computer and let it pick the teams automatically. That way, they couldn’t just randomly invite Duke or the Holes JUST because they know it will help ratings, like the NIT did for Carolina this year. I’d like to see a similar formula used to determine the seeding, too. They shouldn’t be allowed to tinker with the tournament that determines the national champion, just based on ratings. I still believe Duke got an easy bracket because CBS and the NCAA know they’re a ratings magnet.

  13. wolfmanmat 04/13/2010 at 5:30 PM #

    A great article until this was said: “If I were NCAAT czar for the day, I would reinstitute Div I-AA and move the bottom 15 or 16 conferences back to where they belong.” Butler would disagree.

  14. VaWolf82 04/13/2010 at 8:01 PM #

    What conference is Butler in and what was that conference’s ranking?

  15. VaWolf82 04/13/2010 at 8:05 PM #

    With five conference wins and an OOC SOS ranking of 280+, there is no way that State would have been included in a 96 team field.

  16. Wulfpack 04/13/2010 at 8:37 PM #

    Butler is in the Horizon and that league is ranked 12th according to Kenpom.
    The Horizon is ranked 10th by RPI. Thus Butler is one of the true mid-majors and not from one of the bottom half of Div 1 that don’t belong in a national championship tournament.

  17. Wulfpack 04/14/2010 at 6:42 AM #

    ^Oh, I don’t disagree. I was just providing the data you asked for. You’ll never hear me say a conference champion or conference tournament champion don’t belong in the NCAA Tournament. That’s what makes the tournament so great. The little guys do at least get a shot. I see no benefit to adding a 5-11 team from a major conference as opposed to a team that actually achieved something of significant throughout the season.

  18. waxhaw 04/14/2010 at 7:05 AM #

    Unfortunately, the average Joe (and the media) perceives Butler’s run to be a Cinderella story and will probably add fuel to the mid major bid fire. In reality, Butler was a quality team that had a bid and a high seed that they earned. i.e. The system worked.

    If they expand the field and put in anything other than the best teams, it will be a total farce. There should be no mid major rule. They had their shot to win their tournament and get in just like the middle of the road BCS conference teams.

  19. VaWolf82 04/15/2010 at 8:51 PM #

    Wulfpack, you wandered into the ongoing disagreement mat and I always end up in. I asked the question to show that mat didn’t know what he was talking about.

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