Loyola’s amazing Cinderella run almost never happened because the NCAA Tournament selection process is so skewed towards power conferences

This instant-classic March Madness Cinderella moment almost never happened.

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This instant-classic March Madness Cinderella moment almost never happened.
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

  • Had Loyola-Chicago been upset in its conference tournament, they likely would have missed the NCAA Tournament entirely.
  • Over the past few years, the number of mid-major teams getting at-large NCAA tournament bids has declined.
  • The makeup of the NCAA selection committee is skewed against mid-majors.
  • Scheduling also tends to work against mid-majors since power-conference teams have little incentive to go on the road to play smaller schools.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports has a good write-up about how an NCAA Tournament selection process that may be biased towards teams from power conferences nearly robbed NCAA Tournament darlings Loyola-Chicago of a tournament bid.

As Forde notes, nobody projected Loyola to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament had they been upset in their conference championship tournament. They were the regular-season champions of the Missouri Valley Conference but faced a surprisingly tough fight from Northern Iowa in the conference tournament quarterfinals.

If Loyola had missed the tournament, it would have been just one example of a broader trend, that is an increasingly smaller number of mid-major teams getting at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament.

And as Forde reports it, one primary reason for this is the makeup of the NCAA selection committee. The ten-member committee features six members from schools in the 10 FBS leagues and only four members from schools in the 21 non-FBS leagues. In other words, over half of the selection committee comes from just a third of all the college basketball conferences. With such skewed numbers, bias in the selection process is inevitable.

Another hurdle that mid-major teams face is scheduling, and that high-profile teams seldom are rarely willing to go on the road to play mid-major teams, and the current tournament selection process doesn’t do enough to incentivize teams from power conferences to do so.

And so, every March, more and more mid-major teams are in the position where their entire season mostly comes down to a few conference tournament games played over the course of a single weekend.

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