In which round do mid-majors lose?
77% (187 of 243) of the qualifying teams fail to advance past the first round. Of the 56 teams that advanced out of the first round, only 15 (6%) have made it past the second round. Twice, as member of the Horizon League, the Butler Bulldogs advanced to the National Championship game in 2010 as a #5 seed and 2011 as a #8 seed. Also in 2011, the #11 seed VCU Rams of the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) advanced to the National Semifinal game. Finally, in 2013, as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), #9 seed Wichita St Shockers advanced to semifinals.
At-Large vs. Automatic
Mid-major conference teams qualify for the tournament by either being crowned the conference tournament or regular season champion. Only 23 times has a mid-major been given an at-large bid to the tournament with Wichita State (4), BYU (3), Gonzaga (3), Butler (3), and Saint Mary’s (CA) (2) receiving multiple at-large bids.
Which teams should you look to advance and which teams should you avoid? Looking at the current conference standings, I came up with a list of possible teams who could win their conference tournament and qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Teams who could deliver a first round upset:
Stephen F. Austin – The Lumberjacks won 2 of their 4 first round appearances as a #12 and #14 seed. The Lumberjacks haven’t advanced past the second round in the last 10 tournaments.
Harvard – The Crimson won 2 of their 4 first round appearances as a #12 and #14 seed. The Crimson haven’t advanced past the second round in the last 10 tournaments.
Ohio – The Bobcats won both games in the tournaments in which they qualified. Once as a #13 seed and the other as a #14 seed. The Bobcats advanced past the second round one time in the last 10 tournaments.
Teams to avoid in the first round:
New Mexico St – The Aggies are 0-6 in first round games the last 10 tournaments.
Belmont – The Bruins are 0-6 in first round games the last 10 tournaments.
Akron – The Zips are 0-3 in first round games the last 10 tournaments.
UNC-Asheville – The Bulldogs are 0-3 in first round games the last 10 tournaments.
St Mary’s (CA) – The #20 Gaels won once in 4 appearances in the last 10 tournaments.
Teams that could make some noise:
Gonzaga – With a 29-1 record, this is hardly a surprise. One word of caution with the #4 Bulldogs: of the 8 times that they advanced to the second round, they have only advanced to the Elite 8 one time.
Wichita St – The #21 Shockers have advanced to the second round 4 of the 5 times they appeared. In 2013, Wichita St advanced to the Final Four as a #9 seed.
Good luck filling out your brackets! Qlik’s annual Men’s College Basketball Championship app can be found here.