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Andy Wittry | | March 3, 2022

14 men's basketball programs that could end a March Madness drought in the 2022 NCAA tournament

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In the 2021 NCAA tournament, Rutgers ended a 30-year NCAA tournament drought by qualifying as a No. 10 seed, then the Scarlet Knights won their first NCAA tournament game since 1983 by beating Clemson in the first round. Drake ended a 12-season drought, while Grand Canyon reached the NCAA tournament for the first time as a Division I program.

This season, after the calendar has turned to March, a handful of DI men's basketball programs fall into one of those two categories: schools on the precipice of ending a significant drought or having the school's name called on Selection Sunday for the first time ever.

Here are 14 schools that could be notable inclusions in the 2022 NCAA tournament, starting with the potential first-time participants. None of these schools have made the NCAA tournament this century, and some have never made it.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: Never

With a win over Campbell in the last weekend of February, Longwood finished Big South play with a 15-1 conference record, which was the best mark in the North division by seven (!) games and one game better than South division champion Winthrop. The Lancers received a first-round bye in the Big South tournament. They'll play the North Carolina A&T Aggies on Friday, with the chance to advance to the semifinals.

North Carolina A&T was the only team that beat Longwood in conference play, 70-62 in Greensboro, after the Lancers won the first meeting by eight points at home.

Longwood is just three wins away from its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance after joining the DI ranks for the 2008 season.

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Last NCAA tournament appearance: Never

Bryant, which made the transition to DI in the 2010-11 season, had four seasons with a single-digit win total in its first 11 seasons at the DI level. It is now just two wins away from its first NCAA tournament appearance after the Bulldogs won the NEC regular-season title by 1.5 games, with a 15-2 conference record, and they opened the NEC tournament with a 73-59 win over No. 9 seed Central Connecticut. Next up is a home game against Mount St. Mary's in the semifinals on Saturday.

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Purdue Fort Wayne

Last NCAA tournament appearance: Never

If Purdue Fort Wayne, which finished with a Horizon League-best record of 15-6 along with Cleveland State, makes the 2022 NCAA tournament for its first-ever time dancing in March Madness, it'll be especially impressive. Last season, Purdue Fort Wayne went 8-15, which was the program's fourth-worst winning percentage since transitioning to DI starting in the 2002-03 season.

Cleveland State earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament after taking two of three games against Purdue Fort Wayne in the regular season, and the second-seeded Mastodons will host Illinois Chicago on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League tournament.

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Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1969

Seattle was an NCAA tournament regular in the 1950s and '60s, when the Redhawks made 11 tournament appearances in their first 17 seasons competing at the DI level, highlighted by a national runner-up appearance in 1958. In Seattle's first nine seasons in the WAC, the Redhawks finished above .500 in conference play just once, with an 8-6 record in 2018, but this season they've enjoyed a successful 2022 campaign in which they're 13-4 entering their regular season finale against Chicago State.

New Mexico State, which has the same record as Seattle but just lost to Chicago State, swept Seattle, so the Redhawks might have to settle for the No. 2 seed in the WAC tournament. As a top-two seed, Seattle would receive a three-round bye to the semifinals, which means the Redhawks would need just two wins to clinch their first NCAA DI men's basketball tournament berth in 53 years, although Seattle didn't compete at the DI level from the 1980-81 season through the 2009-10 season.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1979

Similar to Seattle, Jacksonville is a former independent men's basketball program that once played for a national title in its early DI days, as the Dolphins, led by 7-foot-2 center Artis Gilmore, finished the 1970 season ranked No. 4 in the AP poll and won four NCAA tournament games in a row, including three in which they scored more than 100 points, before falling to UCLA in the national championship game.

Those days have long since passed and Jacksonville has made the NCAA tournament only four times since, each one ending in a first-round exit, most recently in 1986. First-year coach Jordan Mincy led Jacksonville to a second-place finish in the ASUN's East division and on Thursday, Jacksonville will host the No. 3 seed in the West division, Central Arkansas, in the ASUN quarterfinals.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1980

After winning the MAC regular-season title last season with three more wins and one fewer loss than second-place Buffalo, the Rockets were knocked out of the MAC tournament by Ohio, which ultimately won the conference's automatic bid, earned a No. 13 seed in the NCAA tournament and upset reigning national champion Virginia.

This season, Toledo is in first place in the conference again, with a one-game lead with a 16-3 record in the conference heading into its regular-season finale against Bowling Green on Friday. If the Rockets can finish the job in the regular season, they'll host the No. 8 seed in the conference in the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament on Thursday, March 10, and they would need three wins in a row for their first NCAA tournament appearance since they earned a No. 9 seed in 1980.

Toledo has made just four NCAA tournament appearances in program history, with its Sweet 16 run as a No. 5 seed in 1979 being the most notable one.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1980

Through March 2, Furman's adjusted offensive efficiency ranks No. 21 nationally, per, so the Paladins are legitimately very good on that end of the floor, not just good compared to their Southern Conference peers. They'll hope that their play on offense can carry them to their first NCAA tournament appearance since the start of the '80s.

Furman finished conference play with a 12-6 record, good for second in the Southern Conference behind Chattanooga, and on Saturday, the Paladins will play the winner of Mercer and Western Carolina, which are the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds in the conference, respectively. In the regular season, Chattanooga swept Furman, but by a combined eight points.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1991

Towson is in the midst of one of the best turnaround seasons in the country. The Tigers went 4-14 last season and they finished the 2022 regular season with a 24-7 record, including a 15-3 record in the CAA. They'll enter the conference tournament on a seven-game winning streak and they earned the No. 1 seed over UNC Wilmington, with whom Towson shares a conference record and with whom it split a pair of regular season games, although the Tigers won the most recent meeting by 24 points on the road.

On Sunday, Towson will face the winner of Saturday's matchup between Northeastern and William & Mary.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1992

The Bison will finish in second place in the MEAC standings, regardless of Saturday's outcome at conference leader Norfolk State, although the game is important for Howard prior to the MEAC tournament, where it will try to clinch its first NCAA tournament berth in 30 years.

Norfolk State is currently 11-2 in the conference, compared to Howard's 9-4 mark, and the first time the two schools met this season, Norfolk State won by three.

Montana State

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1996

Thanks to an 11-game winning streak in the heart of conference play that included all of Montana State's games in January, the Bobcats are 14-4 with a pair of regular-season games remaining against Sacramento State and Northern Colorado. They currently have a two-game lead in the loss column over Weber State, Southern Utah and Northern Colorado.

Montana State has just three NCAA tournament appearances in program history, with the most recent one coming in 1996 as a No. 13 seed.

Texas State

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1997

Texas State could potentially be part of a record-setting number of schools from the state of Texas that qualify for the 2022 NCAA tournament. With a 12-3 record in Sun Belt play, the Bobcats finished with a three-game lead in the loss column over the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Texas State will play No. 9 seed Louisiana in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament on Saturday and ending a 25-year NCAA tournament drought would be an impressive feat in the second year of coach Terrence Johnson's tenure.

San Francisco

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1998

To a greater degree than ever Seattle and Jacksonville, each of which played for a national title long ago, San Francisco was once a men's basketball power, thanks to Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, winning back-to-back titles in 1955 and 1956, going a combined 57-1 in the process.

In both the 1960s and '70s, the program had a three-year span in which it made the regional semifinals, then the regional finals in each of the next two years. But 1998 marked the program's last NCAA tournament appearance and now, in a strong WCC, the Dons are in contention for an at-large bid, thanks to a 23-8 record and a 10-8 mark in conference play. Led by analytics-minded coach Todd Golden, San Francisco has a top-20 defense and No. 52 offense, in terms of efficiency, per, and the Dons will play their first WCC tournament game on Saturday as the No. 4 seed, set to face the winner of BYU and either Pepperdine or Loyola Marymount.

Nicholls State

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1998

Nicholls State can win the Southland Conference regular-season championship and clinch the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament if it can win at home against New Orleans on Saturday. Both schools are 10-3 in the conference.

In Nicholls State's conference opener, it fell by 12 on the road against New Orleans and now it can avenge that loss at a very important time in the calendar. The program's only two NCAA tournament appearances came in the '90s under coach Rickey Broussard.


Last NCAA tournament appearance: 1998

The program of David Robinson, who led the Midshipmen to the Elite Eight as a No. 7 seed in 1986, once made the NCAA tournament six times in a 14-year span, the first three of which came with Robinson on the roster. But the year was 1998 the last time Navy had its name read on Selection Sunday. But this year's squad is trying to change that.

Navy earned the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League tournament and it will play American on Thursday.

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