as we approach March Madness time, could a "big name" team ever be a 15 or 16 seed?

I’m the worst about following college basketball during the regular season, but like a lot of people, I really get amp’d up for the tournament (especially the first weekend).

I know that “big name” teams like Duke / NC / Syracuse etc., are all virtually guaranteed a spot in this year’s field, but of course all of them have “down years” from time to time, and don’t even get in.

I also understand that there are specific spots in the tournament reserved for the champions of “smaller schools’” conference tournaments.

But do you think it would it ever be feasible for a Duke / NC / Syracuse team to ever “squeak in” and get placed as a 15 or 16 seed? I don’t think that’s ever happened - I think the 15’s and 16’s are usually reserved for the James Madison / Southern / Vermont crowd (“not that there’s anything wrong with those teams”).

Or is it a case where the big schools either get in as a 9 or 10 seed (at the lowest?), or else they’re left out, and relegated to the NIT?

The lowest seed given to the “big name” teams are usually around a 12. This was the case last year, as three of the four 12 seeds were from major conferences, and none from a major conference was any lower. The year before, the lowest major conference team were 11 seeds, along with California who played the 12-seed playoff against South Florida.

There are just too many automatic qualifiers from tiny conferences who, in all fairness, play at a level a step or two down from the major conferences, for a team from the ACC, Big 10, etc. to get a 14 or 15 seed.

Until almost half of the following conferences have a champion that is considered superior to the 34 or so at-large teams, probably not. There are occasionally one or two that are pretty good, but that’s about it.

America East
Atlantic Sun
Big Sky
Big South
Big West
Ohio Valley
Sun Belt

It is possible, but it would require a really bad team from a major conference to miraculously win their conference tournament. Even so, they might still get a 13 or 14 seed.

Agreed. This is why one of the “First Four” / Dayton / “don’t call it a play-in” games is usually between two teams from major conferences and the winner gets something like a 12 seed; they’re seeded just above all of the champions from the “bottom feeder” conferences.

The lowest seed from a major conference that I remember is in 2008, when Georgia was the surprise winner of the SEC tournament despite a 17-16 record. They ended up with a 14 seed. And promptly lost.


The play-in games is for the weakest teams in the field, and once they make the tournament, they are automatically seeded 16th in their group. I don’t remember if a college from a major conference was ever required for a play-in game.

Teams are chosen first and then seeded. A major conference college team that would not make the main field would never be chosen. In a case where the tournament winner had a losing record, they’d be seeded above nearly any mid-major conference team based upon their schedule.

They made one of the games for the 12 seed. Otherwise alot of HBCU would be in those games. I say either:

1.Make the winner the 16 seed, PC be damned
2.Go back to 64
3.Go to 96

That’s not right. Last year the winners of the play-in game were two 16 seeds, one 13 see, and one 11 seed.

When they expanded the tournament from 65 teams to 68, they changed the way they chose the four teams that had to play their way into the round of 64. Two would be from games involving the bottom four automatic qualifiers, and would both be given #16 seeds. The other two would be from games involving the bottom four at-large teams (the “bubble teams”); the tournament committee would determine where they would have been seeded in a 64-team tournament, and those two winners go into those two slots.

Here is where the teams of the two “at-large” Dayton games have been seeded since the tournament was expanded in 2011:
2011 - #11 Southwest region (Virginia Commonwealth beat USC); #12 East region (Clemson beat Alabama-Birmingham)
2012 - #12 Midwest region (Southern Florida beat Cal); #14 West region (BYU beat Iona)
2013 - #11 Midwest region (St. Mary’s beat Middle Tennessee); #13 West region (LaSalle beat Boise State)
It does look strange that the two teams would be seeded 2 places apart, but that’s how the seeding works sometimes; schools are allowed to be moved one place up or down from where they “belong” for various reasons, including preventing teams from the same conference from playing each other too early in the tournament.

So the answer is yes, but you’d need a “big name” team to go something like 4-24 in the regular season, then win their conference tournament. And they couldn’t be much better than that, because by virtue of winning their conference tourney, they’d necessarily have finished the season on a nice little win streak against some quality competition - almost certainly including at least one Top 25 team - which would leave them with a very good RPI win and tons of “good” RPI losses that no other 15 or 16 seed could match.

So maybe not even 4-24 in the regular season actually. Maybe more like 3-25? 2-26 would be better still.

This is what I was going to say. That was the year a tornado hit the Georgia Dome during an SEC tournament game. The remainder of the tournament had to be played at a small colosseum, and Georgia had to play two games on the same day following the postponement.