Last Ten — Say Again?

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Men’s college basketball, particularly on the Division 1 level is a peculiar beast with 360 teams playing at that level. At the end of the season, each squad with a winning record hopes to be one of 65 teams chosen for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship playoffs where that winner is crowned the national champion.

college basketballOf the 65 teams chosen, 31 are selected if they win their conference’s championship. For the remaining 34 at-large spots, the NCAA selection committee has to vote on which teams should get in while weeding others out. For the winners it is all about national recognition, for the losers they may get a chance to play in the NIT — an “also ran” or consolation post season tournament. Clearly, the NIT isn’t where you want to go, but it does extend the season for an additional 32 teams.

What makes the selection process for the 34 at large teams intriguing is that no knows for sure who those teams will be. However, in a stronger conference (Big East, ACC and Big Ten, for example) the top three to five runners-up usually get in, meaning that when the teams are announced on “Selection Sunday” there are only about a half dozen slots up for grabs.

But there are almost always some big surprises come Sunday night.

To determine which teams should get in there is a complicated formula used based on a number of factors: number of wins (20 is usually the minimum), quality of wins and losses (how good were the teams you beat or lost to), winning and losing margins, and one more factor that can really jar fans: how the team performed in their last ten games of the season.

Yes, the selection committee in all of their wisdom has come to the conclusion that how a team performs down the stretch says a lot about how good they really are. When all things are equal, the committee will base their choice on the last ten game factor, taking into consideration the conference tournament and all games leading up to it.

This means if a team loses its opening game in the conference tournament, all hope is not lost. Even if their won-loss record isn’t the best, the nine games leading up the tournament are considered. Clearly, winning all of those games against top notch opponents helps most any school’s cause, which the attentive fan keeps in mind.

So, if your favorite school got off to 12-8 start, but finished the regular season at 20-10, there is a chance that they’ll make the NCAA tournament. But, if quite a few of those wins were over inferior opponents, their cause could be hurt.

Please check our “Further Reading” section for more information on the “science of bracketology” and college hoops. There is a reason why this time of year is called “March Madness” because the conference play, Selection Sunday and the tournament itself can put anyone on edge.

Then again, this is one of my favorite times of the year!

Further Reading

ESPN Bracketology

It Is College Hoops Crunchtime

Financial Aid Road Map

Smart Consumer Lending Guides

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