In addition to the states of Alaska and Maine, there also five schools that have enjoyed Division I tenure for 25 years or more that have never found themselves in the grip of March Madness:
—St. Francis Brooklyn, which first fielded a men’s basketball program in 1896, or just five years after Dr. James Naismith invented the game, has never attended the Big Dance. The Terriers played their first full season in 1901 and, known as the Boys from Brooklyn, finished 13-1. If only the the NCAA tournament had existed then.
—The Citadel, the private Charleston, S.C.-based military institution, won its first game 102 years ago but has yet to bivouac at an NCAA tournament site. The program’s most renowned alumnus is author Pat Conroy, who after writing the novels The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides, did a memoir, My Losing Season. The book is based on Conroy’s senior year, in which he was the Bulldogs’ starting point guard during an 8-17 season.
—Army, the West Point, N.Y.-based military institution, has twice flirted with a tournament invite. In 1944, the Cadets finished the season undefeated (15-0), but did not play on due to World War II travel restrictions. The captain of that squad, Edward Christl, was killed in action in Austria in early May of 1945, just days before V-E Day. The arena on base at West Point is named in his honor.
In 1968 the Cadets, coached by Bob Knight and led by a point guard named Mike Krzyzewski, turned down the NCAA tournament in order to accept a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. As you may know, Knight (902) and Krzyzewski (983 and counting) are Nos. 3 and 1, respectively, all-time, in Division I basketball victories.
—William and Mary, which earlier this month came within 13 tantalizing seconds of its first NCAA tournament berth. The Tribe faced Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the 68-team field. William and Mary led by six with 1:18 remaining, but the Blue Hens pecked away at the lead, as Hens are wont to do. Carl Baptiste made the go-ahead layup with :13 left and the Tribe lost, 75-74.
—Finally, Northwestern, whose continued absence from the tourney is inscrutable, a feat of fecklessness over the decades on par with that of their neighbors directly to the south, the Chicago Cubs. While the Cubs have have not won a World Series since 1908 --have not appeared in one in 1945--at least they have tasted it. The Wildcats, who play in the Big Ten, a conference that sent half its dozen teams to the NCAAs this week, have never been. Ever.
Every other school from a BCS (read: big-time football) conference has tangoed at least once. The salt in this wound? In 1939, it was Northwestern that hosted the inaugural NCAA tournament championship game on its Evanston campus.