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Jack Freifelder | | March 1, 2017

Teams to make the NCAA tournament with double-digit losses

  Since 1985, 11 teams with 14 losses have earned an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.

With an automatic bid available to only 32 teams in the NCAA tournament, the 36 schools left jockeying for open spots need as many wins, and as many quality wins, as possible. Several teams waiting to hear their name called on Selection Sunday this year will have at least 10 losses. Some will have even more.

The most losses any at-large team in the tournament ever had is 14, which has happened 11 times (five in 2011 alone). takes a look at those 11 clubs and points out a few this year that could be in the tournament's double-digit loss boat ... if they're lucky:

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A dozen teams with double-digit losses that could make the 2017 NCAA tournament:

  • Michigan State, (16-10 overall, 8-5 in Big Ten): The Spartans have come a long way from a rough beginning to the year, which saw the team lose four of its first eight games — all against opponents ranked in the AP Top 25. Things got a lot better with a 4-1 start in the Big Ten as the team learned to play without leading scorer Miles Bridges. Now that the freshman phenom is back, a tournament bid looks like. Still plenty of business to take care of nonetheless.
  • Georgetown (14-12 overall, 5-8 in Big East): One of the more confusing résumés comes courtesy of the Hoyas. This team boasts wins over Oregon, Creighton and Butler and an RPI boost from a January non-conference win over UConn. A pair of ranked matchups with Creighton and Villanova before the end of the year give the Hoyas a little life before the Big East Conference Tournament. A run there would help the Hoyas -- the team with the most losses on this list -- immensely.
  • Texas Tech (17-9 overall, 5-8 in Big 12): The Red Raiders came into conference play with an 11-1 record, but the trek through the Big 12 slate has not been kind to head coach Chris Beard and company. Wins against three ranked teams help, but Texas Tech likely needs a few more wins in the regular season and the conference tournament.

Keep an eye on:

  • TCU (17-9 overall, 6-7 in Big 12)
  • Oklahoma State (17-9 overall, 6-7 in Big 12)
  • Iowa State (16-9 overall, 8-5 in Big 12)
  • Georgia Tech (15-11 overall, 6-7 in ACC)
  • Miami (17-8 overall, 7-6 in ACC)
  • Syracuse (16-11 overall, 8-6 in ACC)
  • Marquette (15-10 overall, 6-7 in Big East)
  • Seton Hall (16-9 overall, 6-7 in Big East)
  • Michigan, (17-9 overall, 7-6 in Big Ten)

Tournament History: At-large bids with 14 losses

Year Team Record* Tournament Recap


21-14 (.600)

A few years before Shaquille O’Neal arrived on campus, head coach Dale Brown was busy working his magic and getting LSU into the national spotlight. In 1987, after a middling regular season, the No. 10 Tigers wreaked havoc on the Midwest Region, beating Georgia Tech, Temple and DePaul before running up against Keith Smart, Steve Alford and No. 1 seed Indiana. The upstart Tigers fell, 77-76. Smart drained a game-winning bucket in the championship game against Syracuse.

Result: Lost in regional final


Kansas State

17-14 (.548)

Long before Lon Kruger began his coaching career, he was a point guard for Kansas State (1971-1974). After a few brief pit stops, he soon returned to lead the Wildcats to four straight NCAA tournaments as head coach (1986-1990). In the 1989-90 season, Kruger took a 14-loss team to the Big Dance as a No. 11 seed, but the trip would be short-lived as the Wildcats bowed out in the first round to No. 6 Xavier, 87-79. It was just one of many stops for Kruger in his coaching career, one that has seen him take five different programs to the tournament.

Result: Lost in Round of 64



18-14 (.563)

The same year that Kruger’s K-State team went dancing with 14 losses, Villanova joined the field with 14 losses. Unfortunately, the postseason portion of the schedule would only last for one game. Rollie Massimino’s squad folded against a tough LSU team led by a young big man by the name of Shaquille O’Neal. The 1990 season would prove to be a bit of a practice run for the following year when ‘Nova again got into the tournament and advanced out of the first round despite double-digit losses in the regular season.

Result: Lost in first Round of 64



16-14 (.533)

In 1991, Massimino led his group of Wildcats on a return trip to the tournament thanks to a late-season kick in the Big East Tournament. Despite entering with a 7-9 conference record (17-15 overall), Villanova rattled off wins against Boston College and Syracuse to receive an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The Wildcats dispatched Pete Carril’s Princeton Tigers before bowing out to North Carolina in the second round. On the other hand, Syracuse — which might have lost a chance at a No. 1 overall seed with its loss to Villanova in the Big East Tournament — ended up as a No. 2 seed and fell to No. 15 Richmond in the opening round.

Result: Lost in second Round of 32



16-14 (.533)

In 2001, the Georgia Bulldogs came into the postseason with just 16 wins — tied for the fewest wins and lowest winning percentage (.533) of any at-large team to ever make the NCAA tournament. They dropped their only game in the SEC Tournament but still got an invite to the NCAAs because of one of the toughest schedules in the nation. The reward: an 8-9 matchup with the Missouri Tigers. The game proved to be fairly competitive, but the Tigers ultimately won, 70-68, behind five players in double figures.

Result: Lost in first Round of 64



19-14 (.576)

A 19-14 record was not anything to write home about, but three wins over teams in the AP Top 25 (Texas A&M, Washington State (2X)) during the regular season helped steer Arizona to an at-large bid in the 2008 NCAA tournament. The team was replete with talent from the guard and wing positions, but the trio of Nic Wise, Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger could not stop West Virginia in their opening round matchup. A 75-65 loss was punctuated by a blistering night from the 3-point line for WVU. The Mountaineers knocked down 11 of their 19 shots behind the arc (57.9 percent).

Result: Lost in first Round of 64


Michigan State

19-14 (.576)

In 2011, this rambunctious group — buoyed by  Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Draymond Green — found a way to get an invite to the annual March melee despite those 14 Ls, earning a first-round date with UCLA. The Bruins raced out to a 42-24 halftime lead before a furious MSU comeback fell short. Green’s triple-double (23 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists; the seventh in NCAA tournament history at the time) was not enough.

Result: Lost in Round of 64


Penn State

19-14 (.576)

The Nittany Lions needed a late four-game winning streak to get to the postseason, a run that included victories over Wisconsin and Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament. The win over Wisconsin (36-33) was the lowest-scoring game in Big Ten Conference Tournament history. But head coach Ed DeChellis’ squad lived by one motto: By any means necessary. Guard Talor Battle led a ragtag group into the NCAA tournament for the school’s first berth since 2001. Fun fact: Temple knocked out in-state foe PSU in the regional semifinal in 2001. Unfortunately for PSU fans, history repeats itself. A last-second jumper courtesy of Temple’s Juan Fernandez proved to be the decisive score in a 66-64 win in the rematch. And Penn State hasn’t been back to the tournament since.

Result: Lost in Round of 64



19-14 (.576)

USC barely squeaked into the Dance in 2011, getting a chance to match up with VCU in one of the First Round’s four play-in games. It didn't go well. USC shot 39.5 percent and committed 15 turnovers, earning the Trojans the short side in a 59-45 game. Forward Nikola Vucevic had a double-double (11 points, 14 rebounds), but it was not nearly enough as the Trojans managed only one make from the 3-point line.

Result: Lost in Round of 68



19-14 (.576)

An up and down year for head coach Bruce Pearl and the Volunteers was not enough to keep a group led by Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris from the NCAA tournament. A meeting in the 8-9 game with Michigan seemed like a solid matchup on paper, but reality proved to be anything but that in a 30-point romp for the Wolverines, 75-45. Tobias Harris was the only Tennessee player in double-digits, not to mention the only one on his team to make more than two shots in the game. Michigan shot 51 percent and made nine 3-pointers in the win.

Result: Lost in first Round of 64



20-14 (.588)

The 2011 tournament was full of upsets, with four double-digit seeds reaching the Sweet Sixteen and no top seeds making the Final Four. Marquette gave the East region a little oomph, dispatching No. 6 Xavier and No. 3 Syracuse to get to the regional semifinals. The trio of Darius Johnson-Odom, Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder more than proved their tournament mettle before eventually bowing out to No. 2 North Carolina, 81-63.

Result: Lost in Sweet Sixteen

* Record (with winning percentage) entering NCAA tournament

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