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Andy Wittry | | February 17, 2021

7 teams that could end NCAA tournament droughts in 2021

The first top 16 seed reveal, examined with NCAA SVP Dan Gavitt

The 2021 NCAA Tournament will be historic and not just because the entire tournament will take place in the state of Indiana. It'll also be historic because some of the teams in the tournament field will likely break a long NCAA tournament drought, or even make the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

Using March Madness correspondent Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament predictions, which reflect the games played through Sunday, Feb. 14, we identified teams in Katz's projected tournament field that would be in the field for the first time in a long time.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1980
Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament projection: No. 13 seed

Toledo's last NCAA tournament appearance was more than four decades ago, when the Rockets, coached by Bob Nichols, followed up a No. 5 seed and a Sweet 16 appearance in 1979 with a berth as a No. 9 seed in 1980. In coach Tod Kowalczyk's 11th season at the school, he could earn the program's first NCAA tournament appearance during his tenure. The Rockets won just four games in Kowalczyk's first season and they won 27 games three seasons later in 2014. Now, they could earn the MAC's auto bid and potentially earn a strong enough seed that they could have a real shot at a first-round win.

Through Feb. 15, Toledo is in first place in the conference with an 11-3 record in MAC play and the Rockets are 16-6 overall. Their offense ranks 16th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1991
Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament projection: No. 6 seed

Through Feb. 14, Rutgers is 12-7 this season (8-7 Big Ten). The Scarlet Knights have righted their ship after they peaked at No. 11 in the AP poll, later lost five games in a row and six out of seven, only to win four games in a row and five out of their last six. With the country's No. 13 defense, according to, and an upper-half ranking in offense and defense in conference play, Rutgers has placed itself firmly in the middle of a deep Big Ten Conference. That's the recipe for a projected NCAA tournament bid, as of mid-February, and that would end a 30-year NCAA tournament drought for the program.

Texas State

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1997
Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament projection: No. 15 seed

Texas State's last NCAA tournament appearance came 24 years ago when the Bobcats went 16-13 on the season and earned a No. 16 seed out of the Southland Conference. Now in the Sun Belt, Texas State is 9-3 in conference play through Feb. 15 thanks to the No. 1 defense in conference play and the No. 4 offense.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2008
Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament projection: No. 10 seed

After a 51-50 overtime win over No. 22 Loyola-Chicago on Sunday, Drake improved to 20-2 (11-2 Missouri Valley), becoming the second 20-win team in the country, along with No. 1 Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have the second-best offense and defense in conference play this season, and they won their first 18 games of the season. The last time they made the NCAA tournament, they earned a program-best No. 5 seed. This year, Drake is projected to earn a No. 10 seed, according to Andy Katz.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2010
Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament projection: No. 15 seed

Siena made the NCAA tournament three years in a row in the final three seasons of Fran McCaffery's tenure at the school, which had never before been accomplished by the Saints, who haven't made the tournament in 11 years. With an 8-2 record this season — all of those games coming against MAAC competition — the Saints have a two-game lead in the conference. With the team's top three scorers averaging between 13.1 and 13.3 points, Siena is versatile in terms of its primary scoring options.

UC Santa Barbara

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2011
Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament projection: No. 13 seed

The Gauchos made back-to-back NCAA tournaments as a No. 15 seed in 2010 and 2011, but it has been 10 years since UC Santa Barbara made the Big Dance. The Gauchos are 14-3 (10-2 Big West) this season and they've won their last 10 games after starting the season 4-3. As of Feb. 15, they rank No. 90 offensively in efficiency and No. 80 defensively, and No. 1 offensively in Big West play. The Gauchos have a one-game lead in the conference, through Feb. 14.

Grand Canyon

Last NCAA tournament appearance: N/A
Andy Katz's latest NCAA tournament projection: No. 15 seed

Grand Canyon, in its eighth season as a Division I program, could make its first NCAA tournament. As part of the transition process to DI, the Antelopes weren't eligible for the NCAA tournament until the 2018 season. They won 22 games in 2018 and 20 games in 2019, and now, in the first season of Bryce Drew's tenure, they're 12-3 (6-0 WAC) through Feb. 14.

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