Merrimack College is a Roman Catholic school located in North Andover, Massachusetts. Its sports teams are nicknamed the Warriors. Most of its teams are members of the Northeast Conference.

That conference affiliation is a new development. It only just happened last year. And this is actually pretty important. Not necessarily because of the Northeast Conference itself, but because of the division that it's a part of.

The NCAA has rules of division switching and post-season play

The Merrimack Warriors not only moved to the Northeast Conference in 2019, but they also moved up to Division I.

For many years before that, most of Merrimack's athletics programs were members of the Northeast-10 Conference. It participates at the Division II level. Merrimack's men's and women's ice hockey programs had already moved up to Division I several years before. They're both members of the Hockey East Conference.

Generally, when a program moves up from a lower division, they aren't expected to be competitive right away. And at first, it looked like it might be that way for Merrimack's men's basketball team. The Warriors lost their first Division I game to the University of Maine by 20 points. And, as noted by Forbes, Maine finished the previous season 22 games under .500.

But just two days later, something remarkably different happened.

Merrimack was on the road in Evanston, Illinois. The Warriors defeated the heavily-favored Northwestern Wildcats of the Big Ten Conference. And after that, the Warriors went on a roll. They would ultimately win the Northeast Conference regular season championship.

Under different circumstances, the Warriors and their fans would probably be hoping for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

If not the NCAA Tournament, perhaps the National Invitation Tournament, better known as the NIT. But instead, it will be neither. NCAA rules dictate that Merrimack can't compete in either tournament until at least 2024. The reason is the program's move to Division I from Division II. California Baptist University and the University of North Alabama are currently in similar situations.

Also ruled out of the Northeast Conference Tournament

Merrimack is also to sit out the Northeast Conference Tournament. The NCAA apparently would have allowed them to play in that tournament, but the conference itself made that call. Normally, the tournament champion would receive an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. But, with its ineligibility, things could become complicated if Merrimack were to win the conference tournament.

They are still some lesser-known tournaments that Merrimack is allowed to participate in. CBS reports that the Warriors will probably play in the Postseason Tournament.