Table of Contents:
This is the fifth 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. 16-18, and all of the teams rated No. 26-30.
Conferences: (Conference Rank, Team, Points, Overall Rank, ESPN’s Overall Rank)
18) MAAC – Average Point Total: 18.00
T-1) Manhattan – 72 (T-102, T-115)
T-1) Siena – 72 (T-102, 69)
3) Iona – 10 (T-160, T-129)
4) Fairfield – 6 (T-175, T-229)
T-5) Niagara – 4 (T-191, T-148)
T-5) Rider – 4 (T-191, T-138)
T-5) St. Peter’s – 4 (T-191, T-196)
T-5) Marist – 4 (T-191, T-148)
T-9) Canisius – 2 (T-226, T-214)
T-9) Loyola (MD) – 2 (T-226, T-271)
The MAAC has two teams with very good tournament success as well for a small conference. The only reason the MAAC is tied with and not ahead of the Ivy League is that they have more teams than the Ivy League does, so the average of the top two teams is weighed down even more.
Manhattan and Siena have almost the exact same resumes, and so they are tied atop the conference rankings. Notice that Siena is much higher in ESPN’s rankings because they have had more consistent regular season success than Manhattan has.
Both Manhattan and Siena have been to the NCAA tournament four times in the past 24 seasons. They have each won two first round games and lost two first round games. Manhattan defeated No. 4 seeded Oklahoma as a No. 13 seed in 1995 and also beat No. 5 seeded Florida as a No. 12 seed in 2004. Siena won against No. 3 seeded Stanford as a No. 14 seed in 1989 and easily defeated No. 4 seeded Vanderbilt as a No. 13 seed this past NCAA tournament.
No other MAAC team besides Manhattan or Siena has won an NCAA tournament game, but they have all had at least one tournament appearance.
17) Patriot League – Average Point Total: 24.63
1) Navy – 100 (85, T-61)
2) Bucknell – 72 (T-102, T-80)
3) Holy Cross – 10 (T-160, T-115)
4) Lehigh – 5 (T-189, T-225)
T-5) Lafayette – 4 (T-191, 191)
T-5) Colgate – 4 (T-191, T-203)
7) American – 2 (T-226, T-208)
8) Army – 0 (T-273, T-298)
To younger college basketball fans, it may come as a surprise to see Navy with so many points. However, Navy does have four tournament victories in this time frame. They won their first round game in 1985 as a No. 13 seed over No. 4 seeded LSU. Then the following season they made it to the Elite Eight as a No. 7 seed. They also have four other tournament appearances, but none after 1998.
Bucknell also has a high point total after tournament victories in back to back years in 2005 and 2006. They shocked the world by defeating No. 3 seeded Kansas as a No. 14 seed and then beat No. 8 seeded Arkansas as a No. 9 seed the following year.
Holy Cross is also usually a very good team coming out of the Patriot League. They have five tournament appearances. They have no tournament victories in the last 24 seasons, but have had several very close games.
Army is the only team in this conference without an NCAA tournament appearance since 1985.
16) Colonial Athletic Association – Average Score: 30.17
1) Old Dominion – 78 (101, T-76)
2) Virginia Commonwealth – 72 (T-102, 94)
3) George Mason – 70 (T-112, 100)
T-4) UNC Wilmington – 40 (T-132, T-102)
T-4) Drexel – 40 (T-132, 93)
6) Georgia State– 36 (T-149, 195)
T-7) Delaware – 8 (T-163, T-145)
T-7) Northeastern – 8 (T-163, T-119)
T-9) Hofstra – 4 (T-191, T-183)
T-9) Towson – 4 (T-191, T-210)
11) James Madison– 2 (T-226, T-141)
12) William & Mary– 0 (T-273, T-284)
The CAA is really the first conference so far to show a good level of balance throughout. There are no scores that jump out, but the top six teams all have at least one tournament victory. The top three teams all have over 70 points and are very close in total points.
Old Dominion gets the top spot in the conference with seven tournament appearances, including two first round victories. VCU is second with also two first round victories, but only four total appearances. George Mason gets third on the heels of their Final Four appearance in 2006. George Mason has no other tournament victories in the time period, but they do have four other tournament appearances.
UNC Wilmington is a team that could easily be up with the rest of the conference leaders in the standings. UNCW lost a close game to No. 8 seeded George Washington in 2006 as a No. 9 seed after blowing a big first half lead, and also lost on a last second shot to NO. 6 seeded Maryland in 2003 as a No. 11 seed.
William & Mary is the only team in this conference without a tournament appearance in the past 24 seasons. They were very close last season however, as they lost to George Mason in the conference championship game.
Top 50 Teams:
30) Ohio State Buckeyes – Total Points: 440
- 1 Championship Game Appearance, 1 Final Four Appearance, 1 Elite Eight Appearance, 1 Sweet Sixteen Appearance, 13 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 27
Even though they tie for the most missed tournaments for teams in the top 30, the Buckeyes have had plenty of tournament success.
Amazingly, Ohio State has only lost one first round game. That came in 2001 when they were upset by No. 12 seeded Utah State as a No. 5 seed.
In recent years Ohio State has really emerged as an elite program under coach Thad Matta. They made it to the Championship game in 2007, where they lost to the back-to-back champion Florida Gators. The Buckeyes missed the tournament this past season as a bubble team after several players left early for the NBA, but ended up winning the NIT tournament (although they get no points for that in my rankings).
Ohio State also reached the Final Four in 1999 as a No. 4 seed. They lost their semifinal match-up to eventual champion Connecticut.
29) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets – Total Points: 446
- 1 Championship Game Appearance, 1 Final Four Appearance, 1 Elite Eight Appearance, 3 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 10 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 33
Georgia Tech achieved most of their tournament success over the last 24 seasons between 1985 and 1993. They made the tournament all of these years and had a Final Four appearance in 1990, an Elite Eight appearance in 1985, and Sweet Sixteen appearances in 1986 and 1992.
The Yellow Jackets best tournament finish, however, came in 2004 when they reached the Championship game as a No. 3 seed. There they lost to No. 2 seeded Connecticut.
Georgia Tech would be much higher in the rankings, but they have only been in the NCAA Tournament four times in the past twelve seasons.
28) Utah Utes – Total Points: 448
- 1 Championship Game Appearance, 1 Elite Eight Appearance, 4 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 11 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 24
All of Utah’s tournament victories in the past 24 seasons have come between 1991 and 2005. During this time they were consistently one of the best teams in college basketball, with only three missed tournaments in this stretch. They also only lost two first round games in this stretch.
Utah’s best tournament showing by far came in 1998 when they made the NCAA Championship game. They lost to No. 2 seeded Kentucky as a No. 3 seed in the final game after defeating two No. 1 seeds in the Elite Eight (Arizona) and Final Four (Duke).
27) UNLV Runnin’ Rebels – Total Points: 453
- 1 NCAA Championship, 2 Final Four Appearances, 1 Elite Eight Appearances, 2 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 13 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: 8
UNLV was clearly one of the dominant basketball programs of the 1980’s and very early 1990’s. However, they have way too many missed tournaments in the last 24 seasons to crack the top 25 teams in my rankings.
UNLV has only been in only four NCAA tournaments since 1991, and never won a tournament game from 1991 through 2006. A Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2007 and a first round victory this past year gives Rebel fans slight hope that the program might return back to elite status.
That being said, the tournament success that UNLV had from 1985 to 1991 was simply spectacular. They never lost a first round game and made it to at least the Sweet Sixteen in all but two of those seven years. In 1990 they won the National Championship as a No. 1 seed by defeating Duke by 30 points in the championship game. They also made the Final Four in 1987 and 1991, the Elite Eight in 1989, and the Sweet Sixteen in 1986.
26) Memphis Tigers – Total Points: 460
- 1 NCAA Championship Game Appearance, 1 Final Four Appearance, 3 Elite Eight Appearances, 1 Sweet Sixteen Appearance, 11 Missed Tournaments
- ESPN Rank: T-14
Memphis just missed out on being one of the top 25 most prestigious programs since 1985 mainly because of their drought between 1996 and 2005. They only had one tournament win during that time in only three tournament appearances.
Memphis has also had a difficult time moving past the Elite Eight in this time period. Three Elite Eight Appearances is the most for any team outside of the top 20 in the rankings.
A lot of Memphis’ tournament success has come in the past three seasons. Their success is impressive considering their conference has become a lot weaker since most of the better teams left for the Big East. With two Elite Eight appearances in 2006 and 2007 and then a heartbreaking loss in overtime to Kansas in the National Championship game in 2008, Memphis is certainly doing their part to maintain the reputation of Conference USA.