The college basketball season is nearly a month old, and three months from now, the month of March will begin. Then everyone will ask which teams are ready to succeed in March Madness… and which ones will fall short. These are some of the programs which have fallen short more than most in the biggest month of the college basketball year:
The Musketeers have been seeded second and first in two of the three most recent NCAA Tournaments. They were a No. 2 seed in 2016 and a No. 1 seed this past season in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. They not only failed to get to the Final Four in each of those two years; they didn’t even make the Sweet 16.
The Musketeers used to be a more humble underdog program. They used to be a team which gained a double-digit seed in March Madness and pulled a first- or second-round upset against a high seed. Pete Gillen was the first Xavier coach to unlock the talents of his team. Skip Prosser followed, and then as the years went by, Xavier’s ability to keep winning games in March developed the profile of the program. The 2004 team made the Elite Eight as a No. 7 seed. After that, Xavier began to be a high seed when it got into the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers were a No. 3 seed in 2008. They were a No. 4 seed in 2009.
The years kept accumulating, and then Xavier became a No. 2 seed and then a No. 1 seed.
Yet, the X has not been able to reach the Final Four. Almost 30 NCAA Tournament appearances, and yet nothing to show for it.
The Tigers are right there in the same neighborhood as Xavier as a program with over two dozen NCAA Tournament appearances but no Final Four. The Tigers have been a No. 1 seed and not made the Final Four. They were a high seed several times, including as a No. 2 seed in 2012, but they lost a 2-versus-15 upset in 2012 to Norfolk State. This school has regularly underachieved in March and has not been able to find even one breakthrough. From the early 1980s through the earlier period of this decade, Missouri has often been in the hunt, but it has never won the prize.
The Vols are also still looking for a first Final Four despite having the great duo of “Ernie and Bernie” – Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King – in the late 1970s, then Allan Houston, and then the Bruce Pearl teams of the late 2000s. Last year’s team under Rick Barnes was not expected to make the Final Four, but it was seeded third, and that should at least mean a Sweet 16… but Tennessee didn’t get that far, knocked out in the second round by Loyola of Chicago. Tennessee, like Missouri, is a power-conference program with a long history in college basketball. This is not a smaller school such as Xavier which only recently became prominent. Yet, the Vols lack their great Final Four moment. They are still looking for that first taste of glory.
The Cougars stunned Notre Dame to make the Elite Eight in 1981, led by a player named Danny Ainge, who is now the general manager of the Boston Celtics. The Cougars made the Sweet 16 thanks to Jimmer Fredette in 2011, but fell to Florida in the regional semifinals. BYU – like the other three teams on this list – has made a very large number of NCAA Tournament appearances without a single Final Four. Based on current form and the power of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference, it seems BYU is likely to have the longest Final Four wait of these four schools.