In 2006, George Mason University did the unthinkable as a mid-major: they took their 11-seed, beat four straight higher seeds, including a number one seed (Connecticut) and reached the Final Four.
The success of Little George was considered a boon for the mid-major schools that have looked for more respect from the tournament selection committee.
But as the last four seasons have shown, the NCAA tournament selection committee is still giving the big six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC) the benefit of the doubt when it comes time to give out at-large bids.
In the 10 years since the NCAA men’s basketball tournament expanded to 65 teams, mid-major conferences have averaged 7.5 at-large bids a year. And in three of the four seasons since George Mason’s run, mid-majors have actually received less than seven at-large bids.
This year, the tournament will add three more at-large bids when it expends to 68 teams for the first time. It will be interesting to see which conferences will benefit from the extra at-large slots.
Will the committee prefer to give the extra bids to big schools on the bubble like Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska or Baylor? Or will they use the extra spots to finally get teams like Richmond and Utah State into the tourney if those schools make early exits in their conference tourneys?
The Big Six conferences consists of the Big East, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac 10. “Mid-Majors” is a generic term used in men’s college basketball to refer to any school not in one of the Big Six conferences.
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