Bracket IQ

BACK TO Bracket IQ
basketball-men-d1 flag

Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | March 17, 2019

March Madness: Tracking the 43 teams that have never made the NCAA tournament

There's no escaping the nerves on Selection Sunday

In the long history of the NCAA tournament, a field that has now grown to 68 teams, there are still a surprising number of programs waiting to participate in their first March Madness.

If you go back to the tournament's inception in 1939, there have been 3,293 total spots available. Yet, of the 353 basketball teams currently in Division I, 43 have never played in the NCAA tournament. 

Below is the full list, and where each stands in its conference tournament. A reminder, winning a conference tournament grants a team an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Gardner-Webb will make its first NCAA tournament this year after winning the Big South tournament.

Team Conference Tourn. start Tourn. end Tourn. status
N.J.I.T. A-Sun March 4 March 10 Lost in semifinals
Kennesaw State A-Sun March 4 March 10 Lost in quarterfinals
Stetson A-Sun March 4 March 10 DNP
Hartford AEC March 9 March 16 Lost in semifinals
UMass-Lowell AEC March 9 March 16 Lost in quarterfinals
New Hampshire AEC March 9 March 16 DNP
Maine AEC March 9 March 16 Lost in quarterfinals
Sacramento St. Big Sky March 13 March 16 Lost in quarterfinals
High Point Big South March 5 March 10 Lost in quarterfinals
Gardner-Webb Big South March 5 March 10 Big South Champ
Presbyterian Big South March 5 March 10 Lost in quarterfinals
Longwood Big South March 5 March 10 Lost in first round
USC Upstate Big South March 5 March 10 Lost in first round
UC Riverside Big West March 14 March 16 Lost in quarterfinals
William & Mary CAA March 9 March 12 Lost in quarterfinals
Elon CAA March 9 March 12 Lost in first round
Youngstown St. Horizon March 5 March 12 Lost in quarterfinals
Quinnipiac MAAC March 7 March 11 Lost in quarterfinals
Bethune-Cookman MEAC March 12 March 16 Lost in first round
Savannah St. MEAC March 12 March 16 Lost in first round
Maryland-ES MEAC March 12 March 16 Lost in first round
St. Francis (BKN) NEC March 6 March 12 Lost in quarterfinals
Sacred Heart NEC March 6 March 12 Lost in quarterfinals
Bryant NEC March 6 March 12 Lost in quarterfinals
Tennessee-Martin OVC March 6 March 9 Lost in quarterfinals
SIUE OVC March 6 March 9 Lost in first round
Army Patriot March 5 March 13 Lost in quarterfinals
Citadel Southern March 8 March 11 Lost in first round
Central Ark. Southland March 13 March 16 Lost in first quarterfinals
Abilene Christian Southland March 13 March 16 2 seed
Incarnate Word Southland March 13 March 16 Did not qualify
South Dakota Summit March 9 March 12 Lost in the first round
Denver Summit March 9 March 12 DNP
IPFW Summit March 9 March 12 Lost in semifinals
Nebraska-Omaha Summit March 9 March 12 Lost in final
Western Illinois Summit March 9 March 12 Lost in semifinals
Grambling SWAC March 12 March 16 Lost in semifinals
Utah Valley WAC March 14 March 16 Lost in semifinals
Grand Canyon WAC March 14 March 16 Lost in final
UTRGV WAC March 14 March 16 Lost in semifinals
UMKC WAC March 14 March 16 Lost in quarterfinals
Chicago State WAC March 14 March 16 Lost in quarterfinals

 

California Baptist and North Alabama moved to Division I this season. They are not eligible for the tournament until they complete the transition during the 2021-22 season.

The tournament has grown from an initial eight teams, moving to 16 in 1951 and then growing steadily until 1985, when it reached its familiar format of 64. 

Play-in games have made appearances throughout the years, but became a permanent fixture in 2001, when the total number of teams was bumped to 65. In 2011, the play-in was expanded to create the First Four, an opening round that helped fill out the Round of 64. Thus, since 2011, 68 teams have made the NCAA tournament every year.

 

Two teams have made the NCAA tournament but haven’t been part of the bracket as most of us know it. Houston Baptist made the preliminary round in 1984, when there were 53 teams in the tournament, but lost to Alcorn State. Alabama A&M won the SWAC in 2005, earning the school’s lone automatic bid, but fell to Oakland 79-69 in the tournament’s play-in game. 

There is another small, but more impressive group included in this list — the four teams that have been eligible for every NCAA tournament but have failed to make it to one.

In 2017, Northwestern gained plenty of attention as the Wildcats — previously one of the five original teams to never make the tournament — not only qualified for their first ever tournament, but actually picked up a win, and gave eventual runner-up Gonzaga a run for its money in the Round of 32.

The other four teams to have been eligible for every tournament and not been dancing once are Army, St. Francis (NY), William & Mary and The Citadel.

In 1968, Army actually did qualify for the NCAA tournament, but coach Bobby Knight thought the Black Knights would have a better shot in the NIT and turned down the invite. Army lost its first game in the NIT to Notre Dame.

Conference Teams that have never made NCAAT Teams
WAC 6 California Baptist, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, UMKC, Utah Valley, UTRGV
Big South 4 High Point, Longwood, Presbyterian, USC Upstate
Summit 5 Denver, IPFW, Omaha, South Dakota, Western Illinois
A-Sun 4 Kennesaw State, NJIT, North Alabama, Stetson
AEC 4 Hartford, Maine, New Hampshire, UMass-Lowell
MEAC 3 Bethune-Cookman, Maryland-ES, Savannah State
NEC 3 Bryant, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (BKN)
Southland 3 Abilene Christian, Central Arkanasas, Incarnate Word
CAA 2 Elon, William & Mary
OVC 2 SIUE, UT-Martin
Big Sky 1 Sacramento St.
Big West 1 UC Riverside
Horizon 1 Youngstown St.
MAAC 1 Quinnipiac
Patriot 1 Army
Southern 1 Citadel
SWAC 1 Grambling

But of course, the list of 44 isn't made up of basketball's blue bloods. You'll find no Power 5 teams among the uninvited. For the most part, these aren't teams that will find themselves ranked in the AP Top 25 and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament on their resumes alone.

Realistically speaking, the best option for virtually any of these teams to make the NCAA tournament will be to win their conference tournament, a feat that grants an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for the winners of all 32 conferences.

What is March Madness: The NCAA tournament explained

Here is everything (really!) you might want to know about March Madness — one of the biggest, most exciting and most fun events sports. Also known as the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, it's been played annually since 1939.
READ MORE

Who the world picked to win in the Final Four

There are only three games left in the 2019 NCAA tournament, and most brackets are very, very busted by now. But we looked at all of them to see who they had winning in the Final Four and championship game.
READ MORE

Tracking the best (and not best) celebrity NCAA brackets

We tracked dozens of NCAA brackets filled out by celebrities this year, and — just like the rest of us — some of them nailed it and some of them didn't. But one did better than all the rest.
READ MORE

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners