Don’t look now, but we are all of one month away from the start of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. While there are still a few more weeks of the college basketball regular season to go, conference tournaments and the spectacle that is March Madness are fast approaching. A total of 68 teams will ultimately make the bracket and have a shot to win the men’s college hoops championship. Compared to the 358 total Division 1 programs, that number is tiny (less than 20% to be exact!).
While no teams have been officially eliminated from 2022 NCAA Tournament contention on the court at this time, there are actually 11 teams who are guaranteed to NOT hear their name called on Selection Sunday. The reasons for why this group of schools will not be included in March Madness varies. The following looks at the 11 teams who will, under no circumstances, be among this year’s NCAA Tournament field.
11 Schools Ineligible For the 2022 NCAA Tournament
Tier I – Ineligible Due to Corruption
Oklahoma State Cowboys | Big 12
Oklahoma State has taken a step back this season after losing star Cade Cunningham to the NBA. While the NCAA allowed the Cowboys to participate in last year’s NCAA Tournament as the school’s appeal of penalties was considered, that appeal was ultimately rejected in November 2021.
As a result, Oklahoma State must pay reparations stemming from an FBI investigation into program corruption. Included among those penalties is a one-year postseason ban. Thus, the Pokes cannot qualify for March Madness by either an automatic or at-large bid this year.
Tier II – Ineligible Due to Division I Transition Rules
California Baptist | WAC
After making the transition to Division I starting with the 2018 academic season, this is the final year that California Baptist must sit out the NCAA Tournament. The Lancers will be eligible for the dance starting next season.
North Alabama | ASUN
North Alabama is also going through its final year of NCAA Tournament purgatory. The Lions already made some noise in the ASUN Tournament when they finished runner-up to Liberty last year. Even had UNA won the conference title, they would not have been able to play in March Madness.
Merrimack | NEC
Unlike the ASUN, the NEC hasn’t let Merrimack compete in the conference tournament while they are in the midst of transitioning to D-I. Perhaps it’s for the better as the Warriors won the 2019-20 NEC regular-season title and is a .500 team in conference play again this year.
Bellarmine | ASUN
The first year that Bellarmine will be eligible for the NCAA Tournament is 2025. Like North Alabama, the ASUN allowed the Knights to participate in the conference tournament last year. Bellarmine is 10-3 in league play again so far in the 2021-22 campaign.
Dixie State | WAC
Dixie State has yet to experience quite the degree of success as some of its fellow Division I transition schools. The Trailblazers brought up the rear in the WAC last season and are again below .500 this season. As this is only the school’s second transition season, they are ineligible for the conference tournament anyways.
Tarleton State | WAC
The Tarleton State basketball program finds itself in the exact same situation as Dixie State. Despite holding their own in the WAC this season, the Texans will not be eligible to compete in the conference tournament in Las Vegas. The soonest Tarleton could qualify for the NCAA Tournament would be in 2025.
UC San Diego | Big West
The Big West Conference takes things a step further with its lone transition program, UC San Diego. Not only will UCSD not be able to participate in the conference tournament this season, but the Big West doesn’t even both to keep a conference record for the Tritons during the regular season. Here’s hoping we get to see the incredible “Tritons” nickname in the NCAA Tournament in 2025 when they first become eligible or shortly thereafter!
St. Thomas (MN) | Summit League
Of all the teams on this list, St. Thomas has the longest wait before they will be able eligible for the NCAA Tournament. This marks the Tommies’ first transition year from Division II up to the D-I level. Considering they have just a 2-12 record in the Summit League, perhaps the wait is for the better.
Tier III — Ineligible Due to the Bogus Rules of Petty Conferences
James Madison | CAA
So, the reasons why all of the above teams are ineligible for the 2022 NCAA Tournament make sense, right? Well, such is not the case in this last tier, which starts with James Madison. The school announced its intention to leave the decrepit Colonial Athletic Association for the Sun Belt Conference after the conclusion of the 2021-22 academic year. Well, that maneuver didn’t please the CAA and its decision-makers.
As a result of JMU’s decision to switch leagues next season, the CAA banned the Dukes from any and all athletic championships for the 2021-22 season. James Madison submitted a waiver request hoping to receive legibility which the conference was quick to deny last fall. Thus, the 2022 Colonial Athletic Association tournament will not include JMU.
Thanks to the petty pricks at the helm of the CAA, the Dukes have no realistic path into the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The conference has only sent multiple teams to the Big Dance five times in 43 years of existence. The Colonial has been strictly a one-bid league dating back to 2011. With no hope of gaining an at-large bid and no conference tournament to play in, James Madison is guaranteed to miss out on March Madness this year.
UIC | Horizon League
Now, if you were thinking that only the CAA would be capable of enacting such a childish ruling, think again! It turns out that the Horizon League and its decision-makers are just as petty as those heading up the Colonial. In late January, UIC announced that it would be leaving the Horizon League to join the Missouri Valley Conference starting next season. It’s hard to imagine the Flames envisioned that their current conference (where they have been a member since 1994) would ban them from all athletic championships as a result of their decision, but that’s exactly what the Horizon League did.
With no conference tournament to participate in, UIC has no true path to the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Although the Horizon League has sent multiple teams to the Big Dance nine times in its history, all of those instances came before widespread conference realignment.
Speaking of Horizon League realignment, the history of teams coming and going from the conference makes the decision to ban UIC from the tournament look even more petty. Not only have teams left the Horizon for greener pastures in the past, but some have actually done the same exact move that the Flames will make next season. Both Butler and Valparaiso joined the Missouri Valley Conference directly from the Horizon League!
Valpo completed the switch most recently in 2017. Perhaps the Flames should have taken a page out of the Crusaders’ playbook and held off on announcing their intention to realign until after the college basketball season. Then again, who would have guessed that not one but two conferences would act like total babies over losing a member school?