Table of Contents:
This is the second part in my series of Prestige Rankings for NCAA Basketball over the past 24 years. My rankings are a more accurate and simplistic approach to the Prestige Rankings released by ESPN several weeks ago. Please refer to the table of contents to view other articles in the series.
Here I will unveil all of the teams in conferences rated No. 25-27, and all of the teams rated No. 41-45.
Conferences: (Conference Rank, Team, Points, Overall Rank, ESPN’s Overall Rank)
27) America East – Average Point Total: 5.78
1) Vermont – 38 (T-142, 159)
2) Boston University – 8 (T-163, 108)
3) Albany – 4 (T-191, DNQ)
4) UMBC – 2 (T-226, T-256)
T-5) Hartford – 0 (T-273, 270)
T-5) Binghamton – 0 (T-273, DNQ)
T-5) New Hampshire – 0 (T-273, 297)
T-5) Stony Brook – 0 (T-273, DNQ)
T-5) Maine – 0 (T-273, T-278)
The high moment for the America East conference was No. 13 seeded Vermont’s victory over No. 4 seeded Syracuse in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The conference has also had several upset scares recently. The same Vermont team played No. 2 seeded Connecticut to a very close game the year before their big upset and Albany gave No. 1 seeded the biggest scare any No. 16 seed has provided in recent memory in 2006.
Boston University, whose four tournament appearances are spread out over the 24-year time period, is rated inexplicably high in the ESPN rankings. Also, it is easy to see that the bottom five teams in this conference that have never qualified for the NCAA tournament make it impossible for America East to climb very high in the conference standings.
26) SWAC – Average Point Total: 7.50
1) Southern – 44 (T-126, 98)
2) Mississippi Valley State – 8 (T-163, T-141)
3) Texas Southern – 7 (174, 167)
4) Jackson State – 6 (T-175, T-177)
T-5) Alabama State – 4 (T-191, T-203)
T-5) Alcorn State – 3 (225, T-201)
7) Prarie View A&M – 2 (T-226, T-292)
8) Alabama A&M – 1 (272, DNQ)
T-9) Arkansas Pine Bluff – 0 (T-273, DNQ)
T-9) Grambling State – 0 (T-273, T-271)
The lone first round victory for the SWAC came in 1993 when No. 13 seeded Southern soundly defeated No. 4 seeded Georgia Tech. Southern University also qualified for the NCAA tournament five other times since 1985 to easily capture the top spot in this conference.
Texas Southern and Alabama A&M have both fallen victim to the NCAA play-in game in recent years, losing before qualifying for the first round. Even though these teams have lost, after analyzing some of the other conferences it certainly seems like there are teams from even less prestigious conferences that could be placed into the play-in game instead of these teams.
25) Big South – Average Score: 7.63
1) Winthrop – 47 (123, 79)
T-2) Liberty – 4 (T-191, T-203)
T-2) Coastal Carolina – 4 (T-191, T-196)
T-4) UNC Asheville – 2 (T-226, T-183)
T-4) Radford – 2 (T-226, T-168)
T-4) Charleston Southern – 2 (T-226, T-241)
T-7) High Point – 0 (T-273, DNQ)
T-7) Virginia Military Institute – 0 (T-273, T-294)
The recent success of the Winthrop basketball program is what gives this conference all of its rating. The rest of the conference is traditionally very weak.
Winthrop burst on to the scene of college basketball by easily handling No. 6 seeded Notre Dame in the 2007 tournament as a No. 11 seed. This win was on the heels of a last second loss to No. 2 seeded Tennessee in the 2006 tournament on a last second fade-away three-pointer by Chris Lofton. Winthrop has represented the Big South conference in the NCAA tournament in eight of the last ten seasons.
Top 50 Teams:
45) Iowa State Cyclones – Total Points: 304
- 1 Elite Eight Appearance, 2 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 12 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-57
Iowa State as a basketball program never really recovered after a devastating loss as a No. 2 seed in the first round of the 2001 NCAA tournament to No. 15 seeded Hampton. From 1985-2001, Iowa State qualified for 11 of 17 NCAA tournaments. They have only appeared in the eight years since.
The Cyclones’ lone Elite Eight appearance came in 2000 when they lost to eventual champion Michigan State as a No. 2 seed.
44) Auburn Tigers – Total Points: 310
- 1 Elite Eight Appearance, 3 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 17 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-90
No team has made the most of their NCAA tournament appearances better than Auburn. The Tigers have more missed tournaments than any other team inside the Top 50, but they have also never lost a first round game. If not for tournament droughts from 1989 to 1998 and again from 2004 to the present, Auburn could be much higher in the rankings.
43) LSU Tigers – Total Points: 314
- 2 Final Four Appearances, 1 Elite Eight Appearance, 1 Sweet Sixteen Appearance, 11 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-40
LSU is the lowest rated team with more than one Final Four appearance in the rankings. Seven first round exits are what moves the Tigers lower down in the rankings.
LSU made the 1986 Final Four as a No. 11 seed, which was the highest seed to do so until George Mason tied the record in 2006. Ironically, this was the other year that LSU made the Final Four.
42) Missouri Tigers – Total Points: 316
- 2 Elite Eight Appearances, 1 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 10 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-37
Missouri tops the preceding two Tigers in the rankings because of their consistency. They have been involved in 14 of the last 24 NCAA tournaments.
Their seven first round losses are compensated for by Elite Eight appearances in 1994 and 2002. Missouri has not qualified for the tournament since 2003.
41) Gonzaga Bulldogs – Total Points: 318
- 1 Elite Eight Appearance, 3 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 13 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 26
Ever since their miracle run to the Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed in 1999, the Zags have firmly established themselves as the best mid-major team in the country.
Gonzaga had only one tournament appearance prior to 1999 (a first round loss in 1995), but they have easily qualified for the tournament every year since 1999.
In several recent years, the Bulldogs have been popular Final Four picks, but have still yet to reach that threshold. Gonzaga actually ranked 15th when I ranked the teams only back to the year 2000.