The Washington Post

NCAA tournament 2012: Northwestern, Texas among last teams in

Coach Rick Barnes’ Texas program has made the NCAA tournament every year this century, but that streak is in jeopardy this season. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

With Selection Sunday fast approaching, go ahead and try to find 37 at-large teams to join the 31 automatic qualifiers in a 68-team NCAA tournament field. Trust me, you’ll have no problem picking out the best 30 or even 33 at-large teams. When looking to fill the last four open slots, you’ll likely have two questions: Do I really have to find four more? And why couldn’t the NCAA contract instead of expand the tournament a few years ago?

Yes, once again there is a large pool of mediocre teams competing for these final at-large spots as of Monday. In the coming days, some of these teams will further bolster their hopes, others will further sink into the abyss. At the moment, here’s my take on who barely makes the cut and who does not. (And if you miss the cut, you have nothing to complain about!)

Last Four At-Large Teams


As Illinois and Minnesota fall, Northwestern rises. The Michigan State win looks even better now. Their worst loss is against Minnesota, no shame in that. Playing in the Big Ten, they also have navigated the nation’s ninth-strongest schedule.


The 12-point loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday did not help matters. But the Temple victory still looks good. The home game Monday against Baylor is a great opportunity.

Colorado State

CSU does not have too much to hang its hat on beyond strong strength of schedule numbers and the win over San Diego State. The Rams also need to play better on the road.

Central Florida

One of the problems is that the Nov. 25 victory against Connecticut looks worse and worse every day as the Huskies continue to slide. Let’s face it, this is a pretty bland tournament resume. Just ship them to Dayton for the play-in games.

First Teams Out



St. Joe’s

NC State

South Florida




More on Washington Post Sports

Maryland coverage at Terrapins Insider

Virginia coverage at Cavaliers Journal

Virginia Tech coverage at Hokies Journal


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
From clubfoot to climbing: Double amputee lives life of adventure
Learn to make traditional soup dumplings
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Play Videos
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
The rise and fall of baseball cards
How to keep your child safe in the water
Play Videos
'Did you fall from heaven?': D.C.'s pick-up lines
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
How to get organized for back to school
How to buy a car via e-mail
The signature drink of New Orleans