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363 to 1 - NCAA Men’s Basketball Counts Down to a National Champion - Picking Up Speed

4 more teams eliminated in the past week, the count stands at 343

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 27 Maine at Brown Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As of one week ago, 347 teams were still in the running for the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship. Yes, even the Minnesota Gophers still have a chance. In the past week, we’ve seen that number drop further. Eliminations on three consecutive days were followed by the last two-day quiet period we will see prior to the NCAA tournament. Our fourth elimination of the week occurred last night and further eliminations will follow later today as well as tomorrow. Sunday should be our last day without an elimination for two weeks with daily eliminations beginning on Monday. Over 5% of the field has now been eliminated.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 22 Minnesota at Maryland
Pharrel Payne and the Gophers are still technically competing for a national championship
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Saturday, February 18

Multiple conferences had opportunities to eliminate teams last Saturday. Only the Atlantic Sun however took advantage of their opportunity. With a 55-79 loss to Liberty, Jacksonville State fell to 4-12 in conference play and just 11-17 overall. At 4-12, JSU stood two games behind both crosstown rival Jacksonville and Florida Gulf Coast while needing to pass both in the conference standings. Since they went 0-2 against Jacksonville and 0-1 against FGCU, JSU will lose a tiebreaker even if they are able to achieve a tie.

It’s been a pretty big drop off from last season when Jacksonville State represented the Atlantic Sun in the NCAA tournament as a 15 seed. The Gamecocks become the first of last year’s field of 68 to be eliminated this season and bring this season’s number down to 346.

Teams eliminated Saturday, February 18:

  1. Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Jacksonville State v Utah
Same team guys. Don’t fight each other for the rebound.
Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images

Sunday, February 19

The following day after Jacksonville State was eliminated, they were joined by fellow conference mate Central Arkansas after the Bears fell to Bellarmine on the road 67-68 when Bellarmine made a layup with 5 seconds remaining. The loss sent Central Arkansas’s record to 4-12 in ASun play and 9-20 overall. Like Jacksonville State, Central Arkansas was left two games back of Jacksonville and Florida Gulf Coast while needing to pass both of them with only two games remaining. Their record against the group was 1-2 meaning that Central Arkansas was unable to win a potential tiebreaker. The Bears have never made the Division 1 tournament and will have to try again next season after bringing our countdown to 345.

Teams eliminated Sunday, February 19:

  1. Central Arkansas Bears
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 12 Central Arkansas at Queens University of Charlotte Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Monday, February 20

Monday saw only 19 games involving Division 1 teams (and just 18 with two Division 1 teams facing each other), but we did see our first SWAC elimination of the year. The SWAC plays on Saturdays and Mondays and after losing to Texas Southern on Saturday, Mississippi Valley State could not afford another loss Monday. Nevertheless, they dropped the game 65-67 to Prairie View A&M leaving themselves at 4-25 (3-12) and unable to catch 8th place in the conference standings with three games to play.

If MVSU was to win out and the current group tied for 8th was to lose out, MVSU would find themselves in a four or five way tie for the last SWAC tournament spot. Unfortunately for the Delta Devils from Itta Bena, Mississippi in this scenario they would be 2-3 against the four team tie or 2-4 against the five team tie scenario. Neither would advance them and therefore Missouri Valley State brings our countdown to 344. The Delta Devils have not made the tournament since 2012.

Teams eliminated Monday, February 20:

  1. Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 03 Mississippi Valley State at Mississippi State Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thursday, February 23

I spent the early part of this week watching additional teams from the MAC, America East, and Atlantic Sun avoid an early elimination. I began to wonder whether this week would be able to surpass last week in the number of eliminations. Finally there was just one scenario left. An Eastern Illinois loss on Wednesday evening coupled with a Little Rock win on Thursday would see EIU eliminated.

EIU lost to Ohio Valley Conference champion Morehead State 63-69 on Wednesday. Little Rock defeated Southern Illinois - Edwardsville on the road 79-74 on Thursday. That’s all she wrote for the team that defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes in December. The Panthers are 1 game back with 1 to play, but since they split the season series with Little Rock, the tiebreaker goes to the record against conference winner Morehead State. Little Rock managed to knock off the Eagles on February 9th and so they would win a tiebreaker with EIU. Lindenwood could make this a three way tie, but that doesn’t help EIU. Their 2-2 record against the group is worse than Lindenwood’s 3-1 in that scenario. The 9-21 (5-12 in Ohio Valley) Panthers bring our number to 343.

Teams eliminated Thursday, February 20:

  1. Eastern Illinois Panthers
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 21 Eastern Illinois at Iowa
You’ll always have Iowa City
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

That brings the numbers to...

Number of Teams Eligible for Auto Bids - 343 (94.49%)

Number of Teams Eliminated - 20 (5.51%)

Number of Teams Eliminated since Last Week - 4 (1.10%)

Teams Under Consideration for At Large Bids Only - 0

The weekend ahead

America East Conference Race

NJIT v St. John’s
Who will make the AE tournament?
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The race for the last spot in the America East conference is between NJIT and Albany with NJIT holding a two game lead with two to play. Fortunately for Albany, their next conference game is against NJIT. If they win, this race will be decided on Tuesday. If Albany loses, they join the ranks of our eliminated teams as their overall record is far below .500.

Atlantic Sun Conference Race

Three of our four programs in the Atlantic Sun that will be held out of the conference tournament have been determined. The last spot is between Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville who are currently tied. Tonight, FGCU plays last place Austin Peay while Jacksonville plays Eastern Kentucky. If FGCU wins against Austin Peay, they will advance to the ASun tournament. Should they lose, it opens up the door for Jacksonville, but the Dolphins need to win to stay alive. At 0-2 against FGCU, they can’t avoid to end up in a tie.

Queens (ineligible for the NCAA tournament) sits 1 game in front of both of these teams. At 1-1 against FGCU and Jacksonville, they will advance no matter what happens tonight.

Ivy League Race

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs
The ivy covered wall has the count wrong
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Ivy league race is a mess with two Saturdays of basketball left. With the conference taking the top 4 teams in the standings, nobody is safe yet and only one of the eight teams has been eliminated. Currently Cornell and Brown are tied for the last spot at 6-6, but Harvard and Dartmouth sit just one game back. While Yale, Princeton, and Penn sit two games above the cutline at 8-4, none of them have secured an Ivy tournament spot. The grouping of teams also means that the tiebreakers get rather messy.

Have no fear though, here’s the breakdown. Dartmouth cannot afford a loss or a win by either Cornell or Brown this weekend. Harvard cannot afford a loss plus a win by either Cornell or Brown. Brown will remain in the running until next weekend unless the following four results occur on Saturday: Columbia over Brown, Harvard over Princeton, Penn over Dartmouth, and Cornell over Yale. Cornell will remain in the running until next weekend.

MAC Race

NCAA Basketball: Central Michigan at Michigan
We should have known that CMU would end up playing an important role in the MAC
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The entirety of the MAC is in action Saturday. Only eight of the twelve will advance to the MAC tournament and that last spot is currently held by 5-10 Central Michigan. Just like we all thought they would when they beat Michigan. CMU are narrowly holding off a trio of 4-11 programs in Bowling Green, Miami Ohio, and Eastern Michigan. 3-12 Western Michigan trails the pack at 3-12 and is the only one that can be eliminated tomorrow.


Three SWAC teams still need to be eliminated prior to the start of the SWAC tournament. Florida A&M sits one game behind Alabama State, Bethune Cookman, and Arkansas Pine Bluff but cannot be eliminated until Monday. The conference season continues into next weekend.

Ohio Valley Conference

Although Little Rock has survived Eastern Illinois, they still need to hold off Lindenwood. Unfortunately for Little Rock they play Lindenwood in their last Ohio Valley game of the regular season tomorrow. A loss wouldn’t be fatal by itself. Little Rock won the first game of their season series and unlike Lindenwood holds a victory over Morehead State. A loss to Lindenwood coupled with a win by Eastern Illinois over Tennessee Tech however would make it a three way tie and Lindenwood would have the 3-1 record among the tied group.

Lindenwood was previously eliminated by the NCAA by virtue of being in the transitional period to Division 1.

Southland Conference

The ten team Southland has avoided any eliminations on their way to an 8 team field so far. The eighth and final spot is currently contested by Incarnate Word, McNeese State, and Lamar. All three sit at 5-11 in Southland play with two games to go. New Orleans and Houston Christian aren’t out of the woods yet either as they sit at 6-10 and 7-11 respectively. None of the three 5-11 teams can be eliminated until Wednesday as they all split their season series against each other.


The next team to be eliminated will be

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    (5 votes)
  • 54%
    Florida Gulf Coast
    (6 votes)
11 votes total Vote Now


How excited are you for conference tournament season to begin on Monday?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Very excited
    (16 votes)
  • 32%
    Super excited
    (9 votes)
  • 10%
    I’m a football only fan and don’t know why I clicked on this article
    (3 votes)
28 votes total Vote Now