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Examining the Merrimack Warriors and why they can’t go to the 2023 NCAA tournament

The NCAA tournament is one of the most beloved events in sports with millions of fans filling out a March Madness bracket to watch their favorite teams or witness Cinderella stories. Unfortunately for the Merrimack Warriors, they won’t have the opportunity to be the heartwarming story this year.

Merrimack is the reigning Northeastern Conference champion after defeating the Farleigh Dickinson Knights 67-66 in the conference tournament championship. Under NCAA tournament rules, all conference champions receive an automatic bid into March Madness. Typically, this would mean Merrimack gets one of the 32 spots in the tournament.

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Unfortunately for the Warriors, their season is over after winning a championship. It’s a disappointing end to a season that saw the team overcome adversity, winning the conference when that seemed improbable just a few months ago. However, there is a reason for it.

Here’s everything you need to know about Merrimack College and why the Warriors won’t be playing in the 2023 NCAA tournament.

Related: Everything you need to know about March Madness 2023

Where is Merrimack College?

Merrimack College is a private university located in North Andover, Massachusets. As described on the school’s website, it is one of the fastest-growing colleges in the country and is just a few minutes from Boston. More than 13,000 undergraduates applied to the university in the fall of 2022, the highest number of applicants ever for the school. It is a private university, with a student population of around 5,000.

Is Merrimack College a D1 school?

Merrimack College officially joined the NCAA Division I athletics in 2019. The Warriors’ basketball team and all of its athletic programs compete at the Division I level. However, Merrimack is still in its “transition period”. The Warriors’ transition period will end next year, meaning they would be eligible for the 2024 NCAA tournament.

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Why is Merrimack ineligible for the NCAA tournament?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament South Regional Practice
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The Warriors can’t play in the NCAA tournament because they are still in the four-year transitional phase. NCAA requires that all teams moving into Division I are barred from participating in championships during a four-year transition period. As a result, despite being conference champions, the Warriors’ season is over. It’s especially disappointing because four of the Warriors’ players are seniors, including leading scorer Jordan Minor.

  • Jordan Minor stats: 17.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.6 BPG, 1.4 SPG

Related: Top odds to win March Madness: Houston and Alabama lead the charge

Can Merrimack go to the NIT?

NCAA Basketball: NIT Final-Xavier vs Texas A&M
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Merrimack is not eligible for the NIT. While the National Invitation Tournament welcomes 32 teams who missed out on qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, it abides by the same rules. As a result, the Warriors aren’t eligible for the NIT until 2024.

Has this ever happened before?

The Warriors are just the latest college basketball team to experience the consequences of the NCAA’s reclassification period. Bellarmine wasn’t allowed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament because it was still in its transition period. Bellarmine is even further behind, with the college not becoming NCAA tournament eligible until 2025.

Division 1 teams in eligible for the NCAA tournament

Here are the college basketball teams ineligible for the tournament, according to NCAA.com.

  • Bellarmine
  • Merrimack
  • Lindenwood
  • Queens
  • Southern Indiana
  • Stonehill
  • St. Thomas
  • Tarleton State
  • UC San Diego
  • Utah Tech

Merrimack College basketball record and 2022-’23 performance

The Warriors went 1-7 in November, with their only victory coming on Nov. 10 against the Clark (MA) Cougars). Things only got worse from there, as they entered New Year’s Eve with a 2-13 record. However, the Warriors turned it around after that. Following that 2-13 start, they went 16-3 the rest of the way, including an 11-game winning streak to close out their season.

  • Merrimack Warriors record: 18-16
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