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Seton Hall’s tournament chances directly affect potential enrollment

After Seton Hall’s 78-70 loss to St. John’s on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, the Pirates’ chances of securing an NCAA Tournament berth for the fourth consecutive season are looking slim.

Even though Seton Hall has not advanced past the second round in the tournament within the last three seasons, the spotlight on the Pirates’ postseason run has garnered national attention for the South Orange campus. The success that the school has seen off the court within this period coincides fittingly with the basketball team’s presence in the Big Dance.

Seton Hall had more than 19,200 applicants for the fall 2018 semester, which marked the third year that the University has surpassed its previous applicant record. According to a study by 24/7 Wall Street, Seton Hall has had a 139.7 percent increase in applicants spanning a five-year window. This spike placed the Pirates sixth in the nation for the largest applicant increase among 600 four-year post-secondary schools studied.

Photo via SHU Athletics

Other colleges on the list included UCLA, UNC Chapel Hill, Kentucky and Kansas ranked at 65th, 68th, 82nd and 97th, respectively. All four of these schools have much deeper tournament histories and established basketball programs than that of Seton Hall. It is not shocking that these schools are not remotely near the same rank as the Pirates on this list, as these teams’ popularities and tournament successes have been more gradual over longer periods of time.

On the other hand, the Pirates’ program has grown extensively in recent years which is reflective of the extreme 139.7 percent rise of applicants to the university.

Villanova has also seen a similar upwards trend in freshmen applicants and March Madness appearances. Between 2016 and 2018, the Wildcats have won two national championships and have also seen a 23.27 percent spike in prospective students within this timeframe.

Last Fall, Villanova had 22,741 applicants, which is about 6,500 more than when the Wildcats won the tournament in 2016. Despite the reigning champion’s 38 tournament appearances, two of its three national titles have been captured in the span of the past four seasons which somewhat mirrors Seton Hall’s exponential progression of program success and appearances in the tournament.

The connection between college applicants and NCAA Tournament appearances has also been seen in the Mercer University system. In 2014, the Mercer men’s basketball team had a 27-9 record and worked their way into the Dance as a No. 14 seed. There, the Bears pulled off one of the biggest upsets in March Madness history stunning No. 3 Duke with a 78-71 victory.

Entering the 2013-2014 academic year, Mercer had 3,864 freshman applicants and after its upset over Duke. The school saw an 11.68 percent increase with 4,375 applicants for the largest spike in perspective students from 2012-2017.

The Bears have underperformed following their 2014 campaign and has even seen a decrease in applicants after their 2017 season which produced a 15-17 overall record. The team has not played in the tournament since 2014 and are a long shot from even being remotely close to making the Dance with their 11-17 record this season.

On the other hand, the Pirates are still in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth as they come down to the wire in their three remaining games of the season. These games will ultimately impact their postseason chances, which in turn can also impact the university’s recent increase in applicants and the upkeep of Seton Hall’s spike in popularity among incoming students.

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Andrea Keppler can be reached at or on Twitter @keppler_andrea.


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