Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis


Basketball tournaments--United States; College sports--United States;


The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Men’s Basketball Tournament is a single-elimination style tournament that takes place every March in order to crown the best men’s college basketball team in the country. Every year since 2011, 68 teams have made it through the grueling regular season for a chance at winning the title of best in the nation. The current system’s 68 teams are selected by a committee of ten athletic directors of schools and commissioners of conferences, but only 36 teams are actually selected by the committee because 32 teams gain an automatic spot in the tournament by winning their conference tournaments. Most of the 36 teams, even though they do not have an automatic bid, know going into the tournament selection day that they will be in the tournament. It is the teams at the lower end of the 36, along with the fringe teams that do not make the tournament, that truly have their fate resting in the hands of the committee. Many of the teams that are in this block are considered to be mid-majors. However, this is not to say that the committee does not play a role in determining all of the teams’ fates because the committee is also in charge of ranking all 68 teams in order from best to worst. This determines the schedule of each team for the tournament.

A mid-major is a team that is not a member of one of the “power-seven conferences.” The power-seven conferences consist of the Big 10, Big 12, Big East, ACC (Atlantic Coastal Conferences), Pacific Coast Conference (Pac 12), SEC (Southeastern Conference), and AAC (American Athletic Conference). A team from outside these seven conferences has not won an NCAA tournament since 1990 which should shed some light on why one group of conferences is called mid-majors and the other is called high-majors (high-majors will be referred to as powerseven from here on out). Not only are mid-majors not winning the NCAA Tournament, they are also barely getting into the tournament. Of the 36 at-large bids in the 2019 tournament, four of 4 those teams were mid-majors. Along with their performance on the court, the power-seven teams have several other distinctions from mid-majors. One of which being they are also able to bring in a lot more revenue off of their basketball teams. All this said, is it possible that there is a bias towards the power seven that makes it more difficult for these mid-major teams to make the NCAA Tournament? In my paper, I will examine whether there could be a bias against these mid-major teams.

Year of Submission



Department of Economics

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


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