With the 2017 NCAA tournament starting shortly, most people have their usual teams picked to win it all. You know what I mean by the usual teams: Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State (sort of, well kind of), North Carolina, Kansas, etc. those perennial powerhouse teams that seem to be in the “National Champion” talks every year.
But, for once, let’s talk about some other schools. For some schools, the goal is not necessarily to win the tournament, but just make the tournament. Florida Gulf Coast, UNC Asheville, Yale, Northern Iowa, Austin Peay, Texas Western, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Davidson, George Mason, Georgia State, and the list goes on and on. Now, if you don’t know much about College Basketball, you don’t know many of those schools. You don’t hear “Northern Iowa is a favorite to win the National Championship in 2016,” because if a College Basketball analyst said that he would be crazy.
To these “little” schools, their goal in the season is to reach the big dance, but in order to do that they have to win their conference tournament. Sadly, for the Austin Peay’s and George Mason’s of the world the only way to make the tournament is to win their conference tournament.
There are 32 conferences in Division 1 basketball. the winners of those conference tournaments get to punch their ticket to the big dance. Meaning your team can go 0-32 throughout the regular season and win their conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament.
Most of the time when the “little” teams make the tournament they are out early, but there have been some Cinderella stories.
In 2012, Florida Gulf Coast University beat the 2nd seeded Georgetown, in the 2nd Round of the tournament and beat the 7th seeded San Diego State, in the Round of 32 before eventually losing to 3rd seeded Florida in the Sweet Sixteen. Florida Gulf Coast was a 15th seed! In 2008, a 10th seeded Davidson (at the time the team was led by now NBA All Star, Stephen Curry who averaged 34 points through the tournament in 2008 ) made it to the Elite 8 losing a heartbreaker to powerhouse Kansas. In fact, in 2011 an 8th seeded Butler made it all the way to the National Championship against a 3rd seeded Connecticut team (eventually lost).
Do not tell me that a “little team” can not go far in the NCAA tournament when obviously it has happened before. I am anxious to see if a “little team” could upset a more “powerhouse” team, and I think you guys can agree it is always fun to see an upset. I guess we’ll just wait to see what happens this year in the tournament.