Table of Contents
This is the third 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. 22-24, and all of the teams rated No. 36-40.
Conferences (Conference Rank, Team, Points, Overall Rank, ESPN’s Overall Rank)
24) MEAC – Average Point Total: 9.73
1) Coppin State – 39 (141, T-90)
2) Hampton – 37 (148, DNQ)
3) North Carolina A&T – 12 (T-157, T-161)
4) South Carolina State – 10 (T-160, T-111)
5) Florida A&M – 5 (T-189, T-237)
T-6) Delaware State – 2 (T-226, T-229)
T-6) Howard – 2 (T-226, 260)
T-8) Morgan State – 0 (T-273, T-290)
T-8) Norfolk State – 0 (T-273, DNQ)
T-8) Maryland Eastern Shore – 0 (T-273, T-298)
T-8) Bethune-Cookman – 0 (T-273, T-298)
It is very rare for a No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The last team to do it was Hampton in 2001, who defeated No. 2-seeded Iowa State. However, the MEAC also has another team that shares this record of biggest NCAA tournament upset. No. 15-seeded Coppin State defeated No. 2-seeded South Carolina in 1997.
The MEAC conference does seem to be losing prestige lately, however. The NCAA play-in game was instituted in 2001, and three of the eight play-in game losers have come from the MEAC (Coppin State, Hampton, Florida A&M).
In one of the closer conference races thus far, Coppin State gets the top spot over Hampton because they have qualified for one more tournament. It should be noted however, that Hampton only became a Division I program in 1995. Coppin State had 10 extra years to accrue points, which is more than a slight advantage.
23) Ohio Valley – Average Point Total: 10.18
1) Murray State – 54 (120, T-30)
2) Austin Peay – 40 (T-132, 122)
T-3) Eastern Kentucky – 4 (T-191, T-253)
T-3) Samford – 4 (T-191, T-192)
T-3) Tennessee State – 4 (T-191, T-251)
T-3) Eastern Illinois – 4 (T-191, T-233)
7) Southeast Missouri State – 2 (T-226, T-210)
T-8) Jacksonville State – 0 (T-273, DNQ)
T-8) Morehead State – 0 (T-273, T-258)
T-8) Tennessee Tech – 0 (T-273, T-192)
T-8) Tennessee Martin – 0 (T-273, T-258)
Although the Ohio Valley Conference is the first with an average point total over 10, it is extremely top-heavy. Almost all of the points come from Murray State and Austin Peay.
Murray State has made the tournament 11 times since 1985, notching a win in 1988 as a No. 14 seed over No. 3-seeded NC State. They have had several other very successful years and received many better seeds. They were actually tied for 30th place in the ESPN Prestige Rankings, which again illustrates the major flaw in their rankings.
Austin Peay has only made the NCAA tournament four times in the last 24 years, but they have a high point total from their win in 1987. They defeated No. 3-seeded Illinois as a No. 14 seed.
While all of the tournament wins for the Ohio Valley Conference came in a two-year span, the conference has had several very good teams throughout the years. The serious lack of depth keeps this from being a more prestigious conference.
22) Big West – Average Score: 13.33
1) Pacific – 72 (T-102, 101)
2) UC Santa Barbara – 38 (T-142, T-138)
3) Long Beach State – 6 (T-175, T-181)
T-4) Cal State Fullerton – 2 (T-226, T-221)
T-4) Cal State Northridge – 2 (T-226, T-225)
T-6) California Polytechnic– 0 (T-273, DNQ)
T-6) UC Davis – 0 (T-273, DNQ)
T-6) UC Irvine – 0 (T-273, T-221)
T-6) UC Riverside – 0 (T-273, T-DNQ)
Like the Ohio Valley, this is another top-heavy conference. UC Santa Barbara does have a tournament win, but Pacific is really the pride of the Big West.
Pacific has two tournament wins, both coming in back-to-back seasons. They defeated No. 5-seeded Providence as a No. 12 seed in 2004, and then beat No. 9-seeded Pittsburgh as a No. 8 seed in 2005. Despite no tournament appearances before 1997, the two tournament wins easily put Pacific atop the Big West.
The ESPN rankings and my rankings agree very closely with all the teams in this conference. UC Irvine had a few good seasons with losses in the conference tournament, and so they are rated a little higher in the ESPN rankings.
While the Big West may not turn out serious upset threats every year, low seeds usually don’t get easy blowouts when they play the representative from this conference in the first round.
Top 50 Teams
40) St. John’s Red Storm – Total Points: 356
- One Final Four Appearance, Two Elite Eight Appearances, 12 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-35
Despite not having won a tournament game since 2000, St. John’s success between 1985 and the beginning of the 21st Century is enough to put the Red Storm among college basketball’s most elite programs.
St. John’s made the Final Four as a No. 1 seed in 1985 and had Elite Eight appearances in 1991 and 1999. While they have only moved past the second round of the tournament three times in the time frame, St. John’s has won two-thirds of its first round games.
There is no end in sight to the St. John’s drop-off in tournament success. The Big East is arguably the strongest conference every season since the most recent realignments, and St. John’s has struggled to qualify for the conference tournament the last few years.
39) North Carolina State Wolfpack – Total Points: 35
- Two Elite Eight Appearances, Two Sweet 16 Appearances, 13 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 52
NC State overcame a 10-year drought from 1992 to 2001 easily by making the NCAA tournament in all but three of the other seasons and only losing three first round games.
As a basketball program, NC State is usually remembered for their improbable NCAA Championship in 1983 as a No. 6 seed. Unfortunately, this was before the 1985 cut-off, so they get no credit for that championship.
The Wolfpack’s two Elite Eight appearances also came in the mid 1980s, but they have been a tough out in the NCAA tournament in several recent years as well. They made the Sweet 16 in 2005 as a No. 10 seed after upsetting No. 2-seeded Connecticut.
T-37) Boston College Eagles – Total Points: 364
- One Elite Eight Appearance, Two Sweet 16 Appearances, 14 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-70
The highlighted tournament finishes for Boston College do not appear as impressive as a lot of other teams inside the top 50. However, what is very impressive is that Boston College has only lost one first round game in the past 24 seasons.
A loss to No. 6-seeded Texas as a No. 11 seed in the 2002 tournament is the only first round blemish for the Eagles. Since most of the teams by far are eliminated in the first round of the tournament, the biggest point jump is gained by winning the first round game. This is why the Eagles are so high in the rankings.
In 2008, Boston College missed the NCAA tournament for only the second time in the past eight years. The Eagles still have a lot of talent, but as a program they may be starting to feel the effects of moving to a conference dominated by North Carolina and Duke every year.
T-37) Wisconsin Badgers – Total Points: 364
- One Final Four Appearance, One Elite Eight Appearance, Two Sweet 16 Appearances, 12 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-43
For the first nine years of this 24-year time period, Wisconsin did not qualify for a single NCAA tournament. Since then they have only missed three tournaments. The Badgers have not been left out of the tournament since 1998.
The recent success of Wisconsin can best be seen in that they finished tied for eighth place in the 2000-2008 Rankings. The highlight for the team was making the Final Four as a No. 8 seed in 2000. There they lost to conference foe and eventual champion Michigan State.
T-35) Seton Hall Pirates – Total Points: 378
- One Championship Game Appearance, One Elite Eight Appearance, Three Sweet 16 Appearances, 14 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 51
I would first like to apologize to any Seton Hall fans for including them in this post and putting the team they are tied with in the next post. I chose to put the Pirates here because they have missed more tournaments.
Seton Hall is the first team so far to have made an NCAA tournament championship game. As a No. 3 seed they lost the 1989 National Championship game to No. 3-seeded Michigan by one point.
Seton Hall is past its prime as an elite basketball program. They achieved the vast majority of their tournament success in this time from 1987 to 1993, when they were among the nation’s top teams. They have only made the tournament three times since 1995