This Year We Might See the Worst Team to Ever Make March Madness

Not one but two college squads could enter the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament with 22 losses, which would set an all-time record

Center court at the Lafayette Leopards college basketball arena
Will one or two teams earn a dubious distinction in college basketball? We'll find out tonight.
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As it does every year in March, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is sure to bring some degree of “madness.” But plenty of insanity has already been etched into college hardwood lore in the run up to Selection Sunday 2023 — bringing us closer to what could be a dubious honor for not one, but two teams.

In the championship tournament for the Big Sky Conference (ever heard of it?), the top seed and heavy favorites to win a trip to the Big Dance, the Eastern Washington University Eagles, were knocked off in stunning fashion on Saturday when Jalen Cone, guard for the ninth-seeded Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, banged-in a three from way downtown at the buzzer. That helped set up a Big Sky Conference Tournament final between the Lumberjacks and the two-seeded Montana State Bobcats, tonight at 11:30 p.m. EST.

Over in the Patriot League (which is also apparently a thing), the tournament’s sixth-seeded Lafayette Leopards will take on the conference’s number-one squad, the Colgate Raiders, for a conference championship of their own at 7:30 p.m. EST. The Leopards upset the Patriot League’s third-ranked team, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, last Thursday in more convincing fashion. They won 71-64.

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Both winners of the Big Sky and Patriot League conferences will automatically join in on the presumed madness that will reign throughout the rest of March. Both could also become historic standouts in another way — though not a good one.

Per the Axios Sports newsletter, the worst record of any NCAA Tournament participating team is 11-18, a mark shared by the 1995 Florida International University Panthers, 1996 University of Central Florida Knights and the 1997 Fairfield University Stags. Though conference tournament wins for each will give Northern Arizona 13 victories and Lafayette 12, both will still have 22 losses and secure them an infamous place in the record books, atop those other three teams from the ’90s.

But judging by the levels of excitement exhibited in their respective tournament wins already, another victory by one or both and a ticket to March Madness would undoubtedly bring about extraordinary glee for these youngsters. Like the most gracious, platitude-spouting of Oscar or Grammy nominees, they’ll just be happy to be nominated.

They’d better be. As Axios reported, “Just 18 teams have ever made the NCAA Tournament with a losing record. None have made it past the first round, losing by an average of 25 points.”

Get ready to smile and applaud someone else, you Lumberjacks and Leopards. It could be worse. Your team name could be the Stags.

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