Nebraskans take a ton of pride in, well, everything Nebraska related. So when the Cornhusker State — the 14th-least populous state in the union — went 3-for-3 qualifying its Division I teams for the NCAA baseball tournament, you can bet that made some hearts swell with pride.
Heck, one of the state's most successful coaches, Husker volleyball coach John Cook, took note:
That got us thinking, though: When you dig into the stats for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia — that's 299 Division I schools — how does Nebraska, with a population of less than 2 million, really compare to its peers?
The answer: favorably. Very favorably.
Nebraska was the only state to have 100% of its eligible teams qualify for the tournament — and no other state was above 50%.
Now, before we go any further, take these stats with a grain of salt — everyone knows that because a school is in Nebraska, that doesn't mean its roster is chock-full of Nebraskans. (It is worth noting, however, that each local team has a good chunk of home-state flavor on its roster: NU has 17 Nebraskans, UNO has 12 and Creighton has nine.)
Other states, if you're willing to twist the data in their favor, have their own bragging rights.
California, for instance, qualified more than double Nebraska's total, placing seven teams out of the state's 25 Division I programs into the tourney, and it's unlikely there are too many UCLA or Stanford fans really upset that CSU Northridge, who didn't make the tournament, isn't pulling its weight.
Nebraska also benefits from having its three teams in different conferences, since conference tournament champs — like UNO and Creighton — capture automatic bids. States with multiple teams in one conference — like Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten — could be at a disadvantage in this metric.
But if you're willing to overlook how silly of a metric of success this — qualifying all of a state's teams — is, you're in for a treat.
For instance, Nebraska got the most bang for its buck when you look at total population per NCAA qualifier. The state qualified one team for every 643,089 residents.
Mississippi excelled by that measure, too. With about 2.9 million people, the state had the same number of NCAA qualifiers as Nebraska (3). That's 995,510 residents per NCAA tournament team. Connecticut (1.1 million residents per NCAA team), Louisiana (1.5 million) and North Carolina (1.7 million) round out the five states sending the most teams per resident.
On the flip side, some huge states sent a relatively small number of teams to the tourney. Virginia, with its total population of more than 8.5 million, sent one team. Arizona sent one team for every 7.1 million residents, followed by New York (7.5 million per qualifier), Ohio (5.8 million ), Texas (5.7 million ) and California (5.6 million).
And the Cornhusker State is really only competing against 44 others. Five states — Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming — have no Division I teams. However, Boise State has added baseball and will field a team for the 2020 season, putting Idaho on the map.
Not everyone can celebrate, though: Iowa's more than 3.1 million residents are left without a team to cheer on. The Hawkeyes, the state's only Division I program, failed to make the NCAAs after being run-ruled by the Huskers and shut out by Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.
Some other statistical anomalies:
- Mississippi (3 of 6) and West Virginia (1 of 2) each qualified 50%, making them the closest to Nebraska's 100%.
- California (7 of 25, 28%), North Carolina (6 of 18, 33.3%), Florida (5 of 13, 38.5%) and Texas (5 of 21, 23.8%) were the only states to qualify 5 or more Division I schools
- Among those states that had at least one NCAA tournament qualifier, Virginia sent the smallest percentage of its DI schools. Liberty was the only one of the state's 13 schools (7.69%) to qualify.
- Nebraska was among 11 states to have at least three schools in the 64-team field.
- California is one of 12 states with more than 10 eligible DI schools; they lead the nation with 25. Texas is second with 21, North Carolina and New York are tied for third with 18, Florida and Virginia each have 13, and Louisiana is fifth with 12.
- 21 states that have a Division I team did not have an NCAA tournament qualifier. Pennsylvania was at the bottom of the pack with zero of its nine schools playing in the tournament, followed by New Jersey (0 for 8) and Maryland (0 for 7).
World-Herald staff writer Andrew Stem contributed to the story.
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