Since 1939, only 8 teams have won the NCAA Tournament Championship and then gone on to not even qualify for the tournament the following season. Only 8 teams in tournament history, some 76 March Madness'. So it's rare, but does happen from time to time. Most recently this happened in 2013 with of all teams the vaunted Kentucky Wildcats, the darlings of the last half decade and the current #1 ranked team in all the land, not making the cut after running the entire table back in 2012.
The Connecticut Huskies, or UConn for short, is right now in that same danger. Winners of the 2014 NCAA Championship, and now with a record that finds them 5th in their own conference
, these Huskies need some help. Current projections have the unlikely reigning champs of '14 being one of the four teams to be just left out of the top 68. The first four out, as it were.
So, when a team finds itself projected at being ranked something like 70th in the country, when only the top 68 teams gain entry into March Madness, at this late into the season, only one of two things can change their fate.Option #1, and the most clear cut way of entry into The Big Dance:
Win the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Tournament. Every conference holds an end of season tournament, the winner of which gaining an instant golden ticket into the tournament. Well, all conferences sans the Ivy League. But for every other, this is THE way to assure you get in. And most of the time, being middle of the pack with only a few games left in your conference rankings schedule doesn't bode well for your chances.
Although, consider the AAC right now. Currently, it's a lock for top ranked SMU to get in. They have a spot in the top 25 national standings at #22 and are in no danger of not being seeded quite high, come Selection Sunday. And as luck would have it, UConn just beat them a few weeks ago. Imagine the confidence boosting that went on after that game for their spirits. For if you can beat the conference front-runners a few weeks before the conference tournament, hopes have to be high that you can possibly Cinderella dance your way to conference champions, and possibly even find yourself gutting it out for the most unlikeliest of all championship repeats in NCAA history! Wouldn't that be something...
SMU, Tulsa, Cincinnati and Temple all top UConn in AAC conference rankings. And the conference seems a lock to carry at least all four of those mentioned squads into the big tournament. Question is, can UConn best all of them with option #1 come March 12th-15th
? I honestly think they have a great shot.Option #2, win final games and hope other bubble teams fall:
Self-explanatory. Half on you, half on luck. Win the last game or two you have remaining, and sit by the TV Selection Sunday, hoping the math worked out in your favor after all. Hope that other teams that were on the cusp misstep just enough to allow you entry. ... No one wants it to come to this. But of course, they will take it. Who wouldn't? A golden ticket is a golden ticket. And after all, it's not a free ride or charity by any means. You still gotta go and take care of business. And what a steep mountain to climb it will be upon entry. Being a bottom seed means facing only the top seeded teams in the country in the first few rounds, and hoping streaky talent play and sheer momentum of good fortune on your side prevails. It is the makings of some glorious Cinderella stories though, and certainly has happened before.
Either option is very possible. No one wants to see a reigning champ miss out on defending their crown. And with UConn being such an unlikely champion just one year ago, I just can't imagine the drama that would unfold if they found themselves on top yet again, after such a mediocre start to the season. As a fan of the underdog, I will be rooting for the Huskies all the way this year. For their sake, let's hope option #1 is taken, and with force.